Top prospect Stephen Halliday says comfort with UND coaches led to commitment
GRAND FORKS—Stephen Halliday had a lot of options.
He could have played in the Ontario Hockey League.
He had enough college options that he didn't feel comfortable listing them.
So what finally led the top-end hockey prospect and No. 1 overall pick in the United States Hockey League Draft to commit to the University of North Dakota this week?
"It was the coaching staff and the visit," said Halliday, who was in town on July 28. "I really connected with the staff. I liked how they laid everything out for me. The head coach was one of the main people talking to me. That was a big factor."
And the coaching staff helped his parents become comfortable with the idea of Halliday (who grew up in Toronto and moved to Maryland at age 11) coming out West for college.
"They just wanted me to be in good hands," Halliday said. "They liked the coaching staff a lot. They didn't care which school. They cared about the people and the coaches. Ultimately, it was my choice. They supported me throughout the decision."
The scouting report on Halliday is that he's a 6-foot-4, 215-pound forward with high-end skill and possesses hockey smarts. He shoots left-handed and can play all three forward positions.
The combination of size and skill has led him to being a coveted prospect.
The plan is currently for him to play the next two years with Central Illinois Flying Aces in the USHL, then come to campus in the fall of 2020.
"Hopefully, come in and play as a true freshman," he said.
Halliday said he also enjoyed seeing Ralph Engelstad Arena on his visit.
"The facility speaks for itself," he said. "It's probably the nicest one I've ever seen in my life."
Halliday was expected to be a first-round pick in the OHL Draft, but his adviser informed teams that he planned to play college, so he dropped to the third round, where the Niagara IceDogs selected him.
But he has chosen the college route, just like one of his friends and fellow 2002-born forward Ethan Bowen, also a UND commit. Bowen was a second-round pick in the Western Hockey League Draft.
"I think college is not only more fun," Halliday said, "but I think it's better for development to get to the next level."