Vancouver Sun

Canucks would be his dream come true

NCAA D-man a sought-after free agent


Troy Stecher wouldn’t mind coming home.

The defenceman for the University of North Dakota is getting ready for the NCAA Frozen Four tournament this week in Tampa, Fla., but win or lose will soon have to make a big decision.

A junior with the Fighting Hawks, Stecher is on of U.S. college hockey’s most sought-after undrafted free agents and could sign with an NHL team once North Dakota’s season ends.

He also has the option to return to school for his senior year, but if Stecher decides to ink a profession­al contract, the native of Richmond says the Vancouver Canucks are on his list of potential suitors.

“My dad used to have season tickets to the Canucks with his old company,” Stecher said in a phone interview Monday. “When I was a little kid, I dreamed about playing for the Canucks.”

Stecher, who will turn 22 on Thursday when North Dakota meets the University of Denver Pioneers in one of two national semifinals, has eight goals and 20 assists in 41 games this season.

At 5-11 and 191 pounds, he was passed over in three straight NHL drafts from 2012 to 2014, but started to turn heads as a sophomore while helping North Dakota to a second straight Frozen Four appearance.

A smooth-skating defender who can jump into the rush, Stecher is finally getting noticed.

“You’re not drafted (to the NHL) so you’re pretty disappoint­ed,” he said. “Now you’re finally starting to get a lot of interest from different teams, so you feel excited.

“It can be distractin­g, but at the same time I’m trying to live in the moment. We’re in a great place right now.”

Stecher was a late-round pick of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawk­s in 2009, but chose instead to play three seasons with the Penticton Vees of the second-tier BCHL to get stronger and hone his game before committing to North Dakota.

In his three years with the Fighting Hawks, Stecher has 13 goals and 39 assists in 117 games and was named an assistant captain for the 2015-16 campaign.

The Canucks — who selected Brock Boeser, a winger with North Dakota, 23rd overall at last June’s draft — are a club in rebuild mode that is thin on defence prospects.

But Stecher said that, while tempting, the chance to play in front of family and friends in Vancouver won’t impact his decision.

“At the end of the day it’s a business and you kind of have to look past that factor of it being your hometown,” he said.

“It’s a place I’m interested in and at the end of the season I’m going to have a tough decision whether I want to sign with one of the teams or if I want to come back (to North Dakota).”

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