Paul LaDue Explains Passing on Kings, Returning to School‏

LaDue Pail Kings by IkiriOne is staying, one is leaving. That’s the big news around North Dakota over the past few days. Following on the heels of MayorsManor breaking the story that defenseman Paul LaDue would be returning to school for his junior season, word came down Monday morning that head coach Dave Hakstol was leaving the university to become head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Although the change behind the bench caught many people off guard, LaDue later confirmed to us that his decision to remain a college athlete was “set in stone” and he wasn’t expecting any sort of a change to what was previously announced. Further, he walked us through the entire decision process – one that he described as being a “weight off his shoulders” and something that took about a month after LA Kings Assistant GM Rob Blake paid him a visit in the days following UND’s loss in the Frozen Four semi-final.

Rather than sign an entry level contract, and be assigned to the AHL, the 22-year old blueliner will remain at UND for what is believed to be one more season. As he alludes to in the interview below, LaDue is expected to turn pro following the completion of his junior season, just like former UND defenseman and fellow Kings prospect Derek Forbort did a few summers ago.

Here is what LaDue shared with MayorsManor…

On the difficulty in choosing between staying at UND and singing a pro contract with the Kings:

“It’s definitely up there. It took me a couple weeks of going back and forth. It was pretty much 50/50, so it was a tough choice. There really wasn’t a point where I was strongly leaning one way. In the end, I just felt like coming back one year – getting an extra year of school and development in, and getting faster and stronger – will benefit me in the future. So, I feel like I made the right decision and I’m excited to be moving forward. It was tough, but I’m glad that I finally made a decision and I can start moving forward and focusing on my development.”

On when he first realized he would likely be faced with having to make such a decision after his sophomore season:

“I think it was at Christmas time. I sat down with my dad and we talked about it a little bit. I tried not to think of it too much during the [remainder of the] season. I wanted to focus on hockey at that point and winning a championship. As soon as the season was over, I knew that was going to come up. It was tough and I’m thankful for everything L.A. did and the patience they had with me. But, I feel like this was the right decision and I’ll be more ready in a year’s time.”

On what he took away from the meeting with Blake and company:

“They went over their plans with me and everything. It was great. I guess my mindset was the thing that mostly changed. I came out thinking, ‘This is going to be a tough decision. I’ve got to take some time, talk to a bunch of people and figure it out.’ However, I enjoyed talking with all those guys; they have helped me out so much, ever since they drafted me. They [basically] said ‘We support you, either way.’ That really stuck out, and I appreciated how they went about the whole process. It makes me even more excited for when I do make that jump to the next level.”

On what he asked during the meeting with Blake and the Kings’ staff:

“I wanted to hear what they thought of my game and what their plans were for me. They were positive, they weren’t putting any pressure on me. Really, that made it a lot easier to work through it with those guys. All the knowledge they have, and the experience, a lot of them had to make the same choice. It was good talking to them. I asked them how they went through it, and that really helped… It’s pretty surreal, sitting across the table from Rob Blake. But, he made it really easy and he was a nice guy through the whole process. That was actually my first time meeting him, but I enjoyed him and he really helped me through it. He talked about his decision [when he was at Bowling Green State University]. He could have left after his sophomore year and he chose to come back. He talked about that with me and that made it a lot easier.”

On if he ever spoke to other players / teammates while trying to make the decision:

“Yeah, I talked to a few players I played with last year. Dillon Simpson [of the Oilers], I was good buddies with him. We played together my freshman year. He didn’t have to make the same decision, but I asked him how he felt about his experience in the pros. He said pretty much the same stuff [others did], like, ‘Either way, you’re going to get better, you’re going to get stronger.’ He told me just to do what I wanted to do; what I felt was right.”

On the conversations he had with his dad:

“He knows my dream is to be an NHL hockey player and he understands that. He kind of just sat back and knew it was my decision, and it was a big one. He helped me out when I asked and he was very supportive with it… I think everyone, at least my family and all my friends; they really didn’t put pressure on me to come back. It’s just more how I felt development-wise and about my game.”

On if the Kings’ defensive depth at the AHL level next season played into his decision:

“Yeah, I looked into that and that’s a big part of it. But, it’s just more what I felt, and what I was feeling towards the decision. I just think one more year here, there is a lot to achieve. After that, I’ll be fully ready to see what my options are.”

On if knowing Hakstol was leaving, how that would have affected his decision:

“I don’t know, that’s hard to say. Obviously, that’s a big change, but I have complete trust in Brad Berry [UND’s new coach]. He’s been with me – I’ve known him for about 10 years now. He’s helped me out and guided me along for my first two years [at UND], so it’s tough to say whether that would have affected my decision or not. I know that [Berry] will continue to have a big impact on my development.”

On who he told first, after making the decision to return to UND:

“I think I told my roommates here. They were pretty excited.”

On telling his parents:

“They were excited. They saw the benefits of either decision and they’re excited for me and they’re going to help me achieve my goals as much as they can.”

On having to call the Kings and tell them he wasn’t turning pro just yet:

“I feel like they understand my process and I’m more than excited. That’s nothing against the Kings organization either. Ever since they drafted me, ever since that summer day [in 2012], I’ve wanted to be a King and I think they understand that’s my goal.”

3 MORE MUST-READ ARTICLES:

Blake on Trip to North Dakota, Waiting on LaDue’s Decision

LA Kings Say Goodbye to Pair of Prospects; One on Hold

Blake on Kings Top Defensive Prospects and What’s Next

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Comments

  1. Future top 4 defensemen. very good prospect.. after his 3rd year in college even though his rights belong to the Kings, he can sign with any other team as a restricted free agent (entry level contract ) I’m hoping that’s not the case but, I think he should of turn pro and he didnt……

  2. If he wanted to be an FA, could have done it last summer. Drafted when 20yo, spent a year in USHL, then two years with Sioux.

    Kings had exclusive rights for 2 years after draft. Expired 6.1.2014