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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published June 24 2012

Former Grand Forks Central player drafted

GRAND FROKS – Grand Forks Central High School frequently churns out state championships, Mr. Hockey winners and standout college hockey players.

But Paul LaDue managed to achieve a feat Saturday that’s rare, even for a program with Central’s rich history.

The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings selected the 6-foot-2,

185-pound defenseman in the sixth round of the NHL Draft on Saturday, making LaDue the first Knight to be picked since Chad Johnson in 1988.

Ironically, Johnson is currently LaDue’s coach at Lincoln, Neb., in the United States Hockey League.

“I was watching it with a buddy,” LaDue said of the draft. “I saw L.A. was up and I got a call right before their pick. It was the Kings and they said they drafted me and told me congrats. It was pretty special. I was pretty excited.”

LaDue, in his third year of eligibility in the draft, was not among any of the pre-draft rankings compiled by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, TSN, International Scouting Services or Red Line Report.

But during his breakout year in the USHL, he caught the eye of a Kings scout. That scout happened to be a fellow Central alumnus, Tony Gasparini.

Gasparini set up a meeting with LaDue during the season and discussed the team’s interest.

“I had some sort of a hint (they were interested),” LaDue said, “but I was still very surprised.”

LaDue played his sophomore and junior years for Central, winning a state championship in 2010. He played his senior year with Alexandria in the North American Hockey League before moving to Lincoln.

Last year, LaDue had a breakout year, tallying 34 points in 56 games in the USHL. He committed to the University of North Dakota early in the season.

“I knew there were NHL guys in the stands every night,” he said. “I just wanted to try to go out and do my job.”

LaDue will be going back to Lincoln for one more season before coming to UND. Gaining strength before starting his college career will be an emphasis.

“This summer, I’ve been working on getting stronger and faster,” LaDue said. “I have to go into the season with confidence, hopefully be one of the top ‘D’ in the league and hopefully get a championship this year.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald