NHL Draft: Four UMass commits selected on Day 2, including goalie Michael Hrabal in 2nd round


Staff Writer

Published: 06-29-2023 4:13 PM

Multiple members of the UMass program were selected for the third NHL Draft in a row during Day 2 of the 2023 edition in Nashville.

Incoming UMass freshman goalkeeper Michael Hrabal became the program’s highest draft pick since Cale Makar when the Arizona Coyotes selected him No. 38 overall in the second round Thursday.

The Praha, Czech Republic, native was the second goalie off the board after the Chicago Blackhawks picked Slovakia’s Adam Gajan No. 35 overall.

He supplanted junior defenseman Scott Morrow, who went 38th overall to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021. Hrabal is the highest drafted goalie in UMass history.

Standing 6-foot-7, Hrabal was the tallest goalie available. He played with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers last season and led the league’s rookies in save percentage (.908) and goals against average (2.86).

“It helped me with hockey mentally and get ready for my future,” Hrabal told Wolf & Luke on Arizona’s 98.7 FM. “The USHL is a great league and definitely prepared me for college. College will prepare me for another level.”

He also represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships and IIHF U18 World Championships.

Hrabal’s flight from Newark to Nashville was canceled the night before the draft, and both he and his parents left their drivers licenses at home, so his sister had to shoulder the entire 15-hour drive so they could be there.

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Hrabal’s classmate Aydar Suniev came off the board next in the third round, No. 80 overall to the Calgary Flames. He had 45 goals and 45 assists last year with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. The Russian national has been playing in North America since he was 14.

“My biggest goal was to get drafted into the NHL. Once you hear your name called, it’s something amazing, something you dream of,” Suniev told Calgary Flames TV. “It’s the best jerseys in the league. I love the logo and all the colors.”

The UMass pipeline was enriched further down, as well. Class of 2024 defenseman commit Larry Keenan went in the fourth round (117th overall) to the Detroit Red Wings. The Midhurst, Ontario, native will play with Penticton this season after amassing 37 points in 49 games at Culver Military Academy last year.

A third member of the Class of 2023 heard his name called in the seventh round when Nicholas Vantassell was selected 215th overall by the Ottawa Senators. The Basking Ridge, New Jersey, native scored 19 goals in 62 games for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL last season.

Ottawa also picked two future Minutemen back in 2022: Class of 2024 commit Cam O’Neil and Tyson Dyck, who scored five goals in 29 games as a freshman last season before transferring to Wisconsin.