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UMass eyes also on NHL draft

When the NHL has its draft Friday and Saturday one current UMass player and one future Minuteman could have their names called.

Brandon Montour, a defenseman from Oshwegen, Ontario, who’ll begin his freshman year at UMass this fall, is ranked at the No. 92 among North American skaters (non-goalies) by NHL Central Scouting, making it a virtual certainty that he’ll get selected, and likely that he’ll be taken in the first four rounds of the seven-round draft.

Montour, a 6-foot-0, 172-pound defenseman, played for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League in 2013-14. He produced better than a point per game with 14 goals and 48 assists in 60 games. He had 67 points (18 goals, 49 assists) in 49 games for Caledonia of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2012-13.

UMass has been at its best when it’s had a capable puck-moving defenseman like Thomas Pöck, Justin Braun and Matt Irwin on its roster. Pöck spent parts of four seasons in the NHL, while Braun and Irwin are both regulars on the San Jose Sharks’ blue line.

Montour’s future UMass teammate Frank Vatrano also has a chance of being drafted. Vatrano, who’ll be a sophomore in 2014-15, played just one game last season. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound forward from East Longmeadow, had originally committed to Boston College, but after what both sides called “an admissions problem” the NCAA ruled he had to sit out the entire regular season when he enrolled at UMass.

Prior to UMass, Vatrano was a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Program where he earned a gold medal for the Americans in the Under 18 World Championsip in 2011.

Under NHL draft rules, a team that selects a player retains a player’s rights until the end of his college career. Ben Gallacher, who was a fourth round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2010, is the only current Minuteman to have been drafted. Twenty former UMass players have been picked in the NHL draft since the program was reinstated in 1993.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage

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