March 22, 2020
Colton Poolman had an opportunity to turn pro each of the last two offseasons.
He opted to stay at UND.
Last summer, he said his goal was to bring the program back to national prominence. He did that. As a senior, Poolman captained the Fighting Hawks to one of the best seasons in school history, going 26-5-4 and winning the Penrose Cup.
Now, the time has come for Poolman to take the next step.
The East Grand Forks Senior High and UND standout has signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames.
The Flames have long been interested in Poolman.
Two front-office members traveled to Mankato, Minn., to meet with Poolman after UND's series against Minnesota State back in October.
Calgary could be a prime landing spot for Poolman.
The Flames lack defensemen in their system. According to CapFriendly, five of their current nine NHL defensemen are set to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Of the 17 unsigned draft picks in their system, only one is a defenseman. And it's a seventh-round pick at that.
Poolman is the second member of his family on an NHL deal. His older brother, Tucker, is with the Winnipeg Jets.
Colton played in all situations for UND this season -- top defensive pairing, power play and penalty kill -- but made his mark on the defensive side of the puck.
Earlier this week, Poolman was named one of three finalists for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's defenseman of the year award, an honor Tucker won in 2016-17.
Poolman, a finalist for the NCHC's player of the year award last season, finished his career with 18 goals and 75 points in 146 games. In the last 15 years, only two UND defensemen have finished their careers with more points than Poolman -- Nick Mattson (78 from 2011-15) and Chay Genoway (127 from 2006-11). Dillon Simpson matched Poolman's total of 75.
Poolman has been well-known to area hockey fans for years.
In 2014, he captained East Grand Forks Senior High to its first state boys hockey championship, beating Hermantown 7-3 in the championship game.
After graduation, Poolman played one year for the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League and another with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League.
Poolman arrived on campus in the fall of 2016 and was instantly one of the pleasant surprises of the recruiting class.
He moved up to the top defensive pairing alongside his brother after Christmas break -- shutting down Union stars Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo in that first game -- and stayed there the rest of the year.
Poolman served as a two-year captain at UND, joining an impressive list.
UND's two-year captains since 1980 have been Scott Sandelin, Dave Hakstol, Greg Johnson, Dane Litke, Chay Genoway and Gage Ausmus.
The Flames currently have one UND defenseman on their roster in Derek Forbort, but he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
COURTESY: Grand Forks Herald - Brad Scholssman