Drafted by NHL, UNH freshmen ready to startBy ALLEN LESSELS
July 29. 2017 11:25PM
DURHAM - Max Gildon and Benton Maass have had themselves a busy summer.
The two incoming freshmen defensemen for the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team were selected in the National Hockey League draft on June 24.
The Florida Panthers picked Gildon in the third round and Maass was selected by the Washington Capitals in the sixth.
Gildon and Maass will look to help solidify the UNH defense in the upcoming season.
The Wildcats jump into the thick of things quickly in 2017-18: They play an exhibition game at the Whittemore Center on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. against St. Francis Xavier University.
The Wildcats then open the regular season with a game at UMass Lowell on Friday Oct. 6.
They open the home portion of the season the next night - Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. - with a return match against UMass Lowell.
The draft in Chicago had a little bit of everything, according to Gildon: It was entertaining and interesting and at the same time a little nerve-wracking.
"All of the above," Gildon said. "From the time you were at the draft until the time your name was called there were a lot of emotions going through your head. It was good."
Maass preferred not to focus on the draft much.
"Draft day was good," Maass said. "I actually was in the car driving to a friend's house and I got the call from one of Washington's scouts. I really wasn't following along too much. It was definitely a nice surprise and a nice way to start my day."
He didn't have a lot of anxiety about the process.
"I figured it was about 50-50 going into it on whether I would get drafted or not so I wasn't putting too much into it," Maass said. "I was more focused on getting ready to come out to UNH and having a good summer."
Gildon and Maass, along with some of their teammates, attended their NHL team development camps after the draft.
They spent much of July at UNH getting a quick taste of college life.
Earlier this summer, Gildon was invited to camp with the United States team at the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. It's a weeklong event starting Saturday in Plymouth, Mich., that will include 12 international competitions between Canada, Finland, Sweden and the U.S.
In April, Gildon helped U.S. National Under-18 team win a gold medal at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Slovakia. He scored four goals, including a hat trick in USA's win against the Czech Republic, and had two assists and was named to the tournament's All-Star team.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time and I'm looking forward to the Showcase camp," Gildon said. "I'm just going into it with an open mind and going to try and play my best. I'm looking forward to it."
Soon enough it will be back to Durham for the start of school in late August and hockey season will be along in short order.
"I'm sure it will go pretty fast here as we get closer and closer," Maass said. "It's exciting to realize that you're a couple of months away from playing your first college hockey game. Obviously, that's pretty exciting."
There will be five players who have been drafted by NHL teams on UNH's roster this season. Three of them are freshmen.
Along with Gildon and Maass, goalie newcomer Mike Robinson was picked in the third round of the 2015 draft by the San Jose Sharks.
There are seven freshman in the class with James Miller joining Gildon and Maas on defense.
Charlie Kelleher, whose brother Tyler closed out a productive UNH career last season, is joined by Eric MacAdams and Kohei Sato up front.
All will be looking to help the Wildcats bounce back from a tough season and challenge first for home ice for the Hockey East playoffs and ultimately a title or two.
"I know the history behind UNH and I'm just hoping I can be a part of bringing the program back to the top," Gildon said. "I think we really are going to start that turnaround, if you will, next year and I think we're going to have a good year."
Maass is planning on it.
"I think we have a really good incoming freshman class that's going to work hard and hopefully we can benefit the team as much as we can and get back on that right direction that UNH hockey was made of," he said.
Robinson has battled through injuries the last couple of years.
"I'm definitely excited for the season and excited to be get things going here," he said. "I'm 100 percent now and looking to get back into things. You definitely learn from it and take a step back and appreciate the game. I'm ready to be back."
Robinson has long eyed playing for the Wildcats.
"This has always been a dream school for me, being from New Hampshire, coming to the games as a kid," he said. "I always wanted to play here and I'm fortunate enough to be able to do that."
Miller comes in from the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
"They came and recruited me at the Alberta Junior Showcase and showed a lot of interest," He said. "I came down and just fell in love with the place. Everything about it was real good. I'm real excited."
For now, Gildon is off to the Showcase camp.
In a few weeks, he and the rest of the Wildcats will be back in Durham and beginning to prepare for the Oct. 1 exhibition opener, followed closely by the weekend series against UMass Lowell.