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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published April 03 2013

Two UND players sign with NHL teams

GRAND FORKS – Andrew MacWilliam is not sure if he’s allowed to be friends with Danny Kristo anymore.

Sure, they’ve been hockey teammates and classmates for the past four years at the University of North Dakota. Sure, they’ve lived in the same building for the past year.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, they are now rivals.

MacWilliam, a physical defenseman from Alberta, signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Kristo, a skilled forward from the Twin Cities, signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Leafs and Habs are the biggest rivals in the NHL.

“The first time we ever played against each other was the World Junior A Challenge, and we were pretty big enemies,” MacWilliam said with a laugh.

At UND, they became good friends who led the team to 105 victories, four Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles (three Broadmoor Trophies, one MacNaughton Cup) and one NCAA Frozen Four.

“They brought a great amount of value to our program,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “They didn’t just all of the sudden in the last year or two show up and become good players.”

MacWilliam was the captain as a senior, Kristo an alternate captain.

They played much different roles, though.

MacWilliam was a punishing defenseman who led UND with 43 penalties and 116 penalty minutes. He also had a plus-13 rating, best among UND’s defensemen. He will report to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, but Leafs general manager Dave Nonis told local media that, “I’d expect he’ll move up the ranks pretty quick.”

Kristo is an explosive, game-breaking player who earned first-team all-WCHA honors, was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and was tabbed as the College Hockey News player of the year.

Los Angeles Kings

expected to sign Forbort

The Los Angeles Kings are planning to sign UND junior defenseman Derek Forbort.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told Los Angeles blog Mayor’s Manor that the plan is to sign the 6-foot-5, first-round pick in “the next few days.”

Forbort tallied four goals and 17 assists for UND last season, while registering a plus-11 rating. He was a regular on both the power play and the penalty kill for UND, which lost in the West Regional final last weekend against Yale University.

Other than Forbort, it is expected that UND will return all of its other players with remaining eligibility.

If Forbort turns pro, the only seniors on UND’s roster next year will be Dillon Simpson, Derek Rodwell and transfers Mitch MacMillan and Clarke Saunders.

The Kings selected Forbort No. 15 overall in the 2010 draft.

Gophers lose three

to NHL contracts early

MINNEAPOLIS – Three University of Minnesota players have turned pro early.

Junior forwards Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish and junior defenseman Nate Schmidt all signed NHL deals, giving up the final year of their college eligibility.

Bjugstad signed with the Florida Panthers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2010. Budish, the team captain, signed with the Nashville Predators’ organization and will immediately report to the American Hockey League. Schmidt signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Capitals.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald