The signings come on the throes of no.1 seed UND’s shocking quintuple overtime exit in the NCAA Fargo Regional playoff at the hands of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Both Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto made the decision to turn pro and will start their NHL careers with the Senators once they complete their seven-day quarantine which will commence upon their arrival in Ottawa Friday.
It was an exciting day for Sens fans Thursday, especially after a video clip of UND’s longtime play-by-play voice, Tim Hennessy began to circulate – with Hennessy stating Pinto was returning for his junior year at the school.
— University of Hockey (@UofHockeyBlog) April 1, 2021
In Bernard-Docker, the Senators get a ready-made top-four defender who plays the right side. The eventual goal is for the 20-year old to land a spot riding shotgun with minute-muncher Thomas Chabot on the club’s top D pairing.
Head coach D.J. Smith said post-practice of Bernard-Docker Thursday, “Top four guys in this league are hard to come by and he will be one.” Lofty praise for player who’s never played a shift in the NHL.
In a team release, Dorion stated, “Jacob represents another key component of our future. He’s very mature for his age and already possesses great gap and stick detail within his game. He’s an exemplary leader and a winner who we’re looking forward to seeing in our lineup.”
JBD as he’s known was recently named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Defensive Defenseman of the Year. But as much as the Canmore, AB native’s shutdown style is evident, Bernard-Docker can also add a little offense.
He compiled 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 27 games this season, and recorded 60 points (15 goals, 45 assists) in his 95-game collegiate career.
On a Zoom video call, the 2020 Canadian World Junior gold medalist spoke of his decision to leave UND, “I don’t know if people really know how hard it is to leave North Dakota. These past three years have been the best three years of my life. Just the relationships and stuff that I’ve made here, the coaches, my teammates, the trainers, staff and just about everyone. It’s a special place. It’s going to be one of those things that I’m bittersweet about leaving, but I’m super-pumped to be a Sen to come in and hopefully help the defense.”
The day brought back of memories of being drafted 26th overall in 2018 for Bernard-Docker, “I think a lot of excitement. It kind of reminds me a little bit of back in the Draft. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of my whole life. Hopefully, it’s just the start, knowing it’s paid off. At the same time I still have a lot to prove to everyone that’s helped me get here.”
The six-foot-one, 195-pound blueliner realizes he will have to earn his spot among the Senators’ d-core, “For me, I know nothing is guaranteed in the NHL. Ottawa has a lot of super-good players in the lineup. It’s just about coming in there and being confident in my abilities. But at the same time, being willing to be flexible with the coaching staff, all my new teammates – kind of just figuring out how I can best help the team – kind of go from there, make sure I put in the work every day.”
Shane Pinto’s season was one to remember. the 20-year old forward received plenty of accolades. He was named the NCHC’s Forward and Defensive Forward of the Year. The Long Island, NY area resident led the NCHC in goals (15), power play points (14), faceoff percentage (61.9%), also tying for first with seven PP markers, while finishing fifth in assists (17).
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The Senators 2019 32nd overall pick is one of three finalists nominated for the NCAA’s prestigious Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player.
“Shane should be very proud of what was an exceptional collegiate career,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “He’s a player with a very high work ethic who demonstrates a strong ability to play effectively in all three zones. He was an elite faceoff performer at UND who possesses a great shot, including a deceptive one timer, and a knack for scoring from both in tight and from a distance.”
Pinto’s strength is easy being a versatile two-way forward who can play centre or wing, but is primarily a centre. It will be interesting where the Kinesiology major fits into the Senators’ lineup in the days ahead.
The Senators still await the decision of their 2021 fifth overall selection d-man Jake Sanderson to see if he also intends to leave UND, but one more season playing at one of the NCAA’s top hockey programs would only benefit the 18-year old’s development.
After earning gold at this past World Junior tourney for Team USA, Sanderson remains eligible to once again perform on the World Stage for the 2022 championship.