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UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs incoming freshman Howard goes to Tampa Bay Lightning in first round of NHL Draft

Isaac Howard, a winger who will join Minnesota Duluth as a freshman in the fall, became the fifth Bulldog taken in the first round of the NHL Draft. He was selected No. 31 overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in Montreal.

Isaac Howard shakes hands with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Incoming Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Isaac Howard shakes hands with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after being selected as the No. 31 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre on Jul 7, 2022, in Montreal, Quebec.
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports
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DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth incoming freshman wing Isaac Howard became the fifth Bulldog to be taken in the first round of the NHL Draft, going No. 31 overall on Thursday to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Howard is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound left wing from Hudson, Wisconsin. He played the last two seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and led the Under-18 squad a year ago in scoring with 33 goals and 49 assists for 82 points in 60 games. He put up 155 points in two seasons with the U17s and U18s.

Isaac Howard after being selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning
Incoming Minnesota Duluth freshman forward Isaac Howard poses for photos after being selected No. 31 overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre on Jul 7, 2022, in Montreal, Quebec.
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

Prior to playing for the NTDP, Howard was at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Howard told ESPN after being the second-to-last selection of the first round on Thursday night. “I was getting a little nervous out there, but to hear my name called was really awesome.”

A confident Howard — who sported a white suit, turtleneck, gold chain and an American flag belt buckle in Montreal — told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan the Lightning got “the steal of the draft right there” taking him at No. 31 on Thursday.

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But that’s not all the Lightning got out of their first rounder.

“I’m the best looking guy here, and I dress the best,” said Howard when asked by Kaplan about his draft outfit. “I dress to impress.”

Howard came into the draft ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, which wrote this about the incoming UMD freshman:

“A very good skater who plays the game at a high pace with a nice burst of speed. Has the ability to be shifty with the puck using quick hands — handles the puck very well. Gets his shot off quickly with good offensive instincts. A hard player to play against with high-end passion and compete level.”

Prior to Howard, Riley Tufte was the most recent Bulldog to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. The Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award winner out of Blaine High School went No. 25 overall in 2016 to the Dallas Stars. He played three seasons for UMD from 2016-2019 — appearing in three NCAA title games and winning back-to-back titles — and led the team in goals as a sophomore in 2017-18 with a collegiate-best 16.

Bulldogs selected in first round of NHL Draft

2022 — Isaac Howard, Tampa Bay Lightning, No. 31 overall
2016 — Riley Tufte , Dallas Stars, No. 25
2009 — Dylan Olsen , Chicago Blackhawks, No. 28
2005 — Matt Niskanen , Dallas Stars, No. 28
1971 — Larry Wright , Philadelphia Flyers, No. 8

Bulldogs to watch for on Day 2

The NHL Draft resumes at 10 a.m. Friday in Montreal with rounds 2-7, when another five or six Bulldogs could be selected.

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At least three have relatives who were drafted.

Zam Plante, a verbal commitment who just completed his junior year at Hermantown, is the son of former Bulldog captain and current associate head coach Derek Plante. The Buffalo Sabres took Derek Plante — a Cloquet native — in the third round, No. 161 overall, in 1989. Plante won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999.

Hermantown's Zam Plante, a future Bulldogs forward and standout scorer for the Hawks, will be joined by his brothers, mother and grandfather at the NHL Draft this week in Montreal. His father, a coach at UMD and NHL draft pick himself, will also be there in person after missing out on the 1989 event in Minnesota.

Incoming freshman center Cole Spicer — who played the last two seasons with Howard on the NTDP — had an uncle who was drafted. David Hale was a first-round selection, No. 22 overall, of the New Jersey Devils in 2000.

Steve Dubinsky , the father of incoming freshman defenseman Aiden Dubinsky, was an 11th-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990, going 226th overall. Despite going so late, Steve Dubinsky played 375 career games in the NHL over 10 seasons with the Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.

Other Bulldogs to potentially watch for Friday:

  • Dominic James, sophomore center, unranked, in last year of draft eligibility
  • Matthew Perkins, winger for Humboldt Broncos of SJHL, verbal commit ranked No. 106
  • Gavin O'Connell, center for Waterloo Blackhawks of USHL, verbal commit ranked No. 178

Another Hawk to watch?

030720.S.DNT.state.hockey.Hermantown.SCC c15.JPG
Hermantown forward Aaron Pionk (11) skates down ice in the second period of the 2020 Class A boys state hockey semifinals on Friday, March 6, 2020, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Tyler Schank / File / Duluth News Tribune

Zam Plante isn’t the only Hermantown native to keep an eye out for Friday during the draft. Former Hawks defenseman Aaron Pionk is ranked No. 132 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Pionk is the brother of current Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk, who went undrafted before signing with the New York Rangers in 2017 as an undrafted free agent following his sophomore season with the Bulldogs.

A 2021 Hermantown grad, Aaron Pionk tallied nine goals and 19 assists in 52 games with the Cloquet-based Minnesota Wilderness of the NAHL in 2021-22. He’s committed to play at Minnesota State in the future.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA DULUTH BULLDOGS
Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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