Michael Abgrall — a forward from Richmond, BC — announced his commitment to the University of Nebraska at Omaha Hockey program on Nov. 9, 2019.
Abgrall’s verbal commitment continues a trend of younger recruits committing to Coach Gabinet & Co. during the 2019 calendar year (he turned 16 on Oct. 25, 2019).
In the 2017-18 season, Abgrall played for the Seafair Islanders (Bantam A1-T1 PCBHL). According to the Richmond News, he helped the team capture the Western Canadian Bantam AAA championships.
This highlight video of Abgrall during his time playing for Seafair shows a player with good puck handling skills and solid on-ice awareness:
Abgrall played at the “academy level” in the 2018-19 season for the Burnaby Winter Club’s Elite-15 program. He had 22 goals and 22 assists in 29 games.
He was drafted 67th in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. The Western Hockey League (WHL) is “major junior” hockey in Canada. As we’ve discussed previously on the blog, playing major junior hockey is something akin to playing pro hockey as it regards NCAA eligibility.
As a result, U.S. college hockey programs that actively seek the best young Canadian players try to gain a foothold before those players suit up for major junior clubs.
Instead of going the major junior route, Abgrall is playing in the BCHL for the Powell River Kings. (He played five games for the Kings last season as an affiliate player and chalked up a pair of assists.)
Many of the best players to have worn the crimson-and-black for the UNO Hockey program have come from the BCHL ranks.
Abgrall has 10 points (6 goals and 4 assists) in 24 games for the Kings at the time of this writing (Nov. 13, 2019). He is currently sixth on the team in total points.
Jared Thomas (@BCHLJThomas — Business Operations Manager of the Merritt Centennials) pointed out on Twitter that three of Abgrall’s six goals this season came in the BCHL Showcase Festival.
The BCHL Showcase was held on Oct. 2-5, 2019. Each team in the BCHL played two games in the four-day event (the games counted in the overall league standings).
You can see highlights from Abgrall’s three goal performance here:
Abgrall is playing in Powell River with fellow UNO recruit Davis Pennington. Pennington, a defenseman, has 10 assists in 24 games this season. UNO freshman forward Ryan Brushett played with Powell River last season (and led the team in scoring).
“Michael’s a really quiet, intelligent hockey player and his game is very similar to his personality,” Kings Head Coach and General Manager told PowellRiverKings.com. “He was a light, young player last year that was able to outsmart his opponents and get the puck back from bigger players by using his brain and his feet. We see him as a high-end, highly skilled player that can really skate.”
That description seems to fit the type of player that UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet has been targeting the past two years. There is little doubt that the 12-man freshman class for the 2019-20 Mavericks features a number of those “high I.Q.” players Gabinet is seeking.
It’s early, but that recruiting strategy seems to be paying dividends for Omaha this season.
According to Cawlidge Hockey Insider (@CHInsider) on Twitter, Abgrall’s projected enrollment at UNO is the 2022-23 season.
PowellRiverKings.com reports that Abgrall was first approached by UNO coaches after the Burnaby Winter Club Elite-15 team played in the Omaha Lancers USHL Showcase last season. UNO was the first team to reach out to him.
“They’ve been after him for about a year,” Coach Kunitz told PowellRiverKings.com. “They did a great job trying to develop a relationship with him. Michael (Abgrall) has done his part as being a really good hockey player, and it fits both parties.”
“I’ve found loyalty with them,” Abgrall told PowellRiverKings.com. “I just love their facility and the coaching staff was great. As soon as I met them, I got the sense that they really wanted me.”
We published our first “UNO Hockey Recruiting Update” of the season on Nov. 6. We’ll add Abgrall to the list for the next update in that series.
Until then, be sure to follow MavPuck.com for the latest UNO Hockey recruiting news.