Family Feud May Hit Denver & North Dakota Ice in 2021

After watching his older brother play for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks for the past two years, Okotoks Oilers (AJHA) defenseman Seth Bernard-Docker (5’11”, 186 lbs.) made the obvious choice – come to DU to play hockey. Seth’s brother, Jacob also played for the Oilers, but now plays for the UND and was taken in the first round and 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.  The prospect of seeing these two brothers collide for different rival schools is tantalizing, but alas, unlikely to actually happen.

Seth will not be joining the Pioneers until the 2021-2022 season giving him another season to develop with Okotoks. Jacob, a rising junior at UND, is likely to sign with Ottawa and turn pro before Seth ever dons the Crimson & Gold.

While not quite yet as highly-regarded a pro prospect as his older brother in Grand Forks, Seth Bernard-Docker has put up 52 points, including eight goals in his first two seasons with the Oilers. He was also invited to the try-out camp for Team Canada West for last year’s Junior “A” Hockey Challenge.

The Pioneers are no strangers to having blood brothers playing for DU and for other programs, and having those brothers facing off against each other in the collegiate ranks. The most recent brothers to play for DU and a rival school over the same years were J.P. Testwuide, a DU captain from Vail, Colo., who played for the Pioneers from 2005-2009, while his younger brother, Mike Testwuide played for Colorado College from 2006-2010, with those two brothers overlapping for three seasons. J.P.’s and Mike’s mother, Janet Testwuide, would wear a specially-constructed jersey comprised of half-jerseys from both schools sewn together whenever the brothers played against each other:

There are also a number of instances where rivals North Dakota and Denver have had blood brothers from the same family playing for the two different schools, but had never faced each other in college play.  Tom Zajac, who played for DU from 1973-1977, had four hockey-playing sons who all played D-I hockey. For example, North Dakota had two of the Zajac brothers, Darcy (2006-2009) and Travis (2004-2006), who both played for UND during the last decade.  Their younger brother, Nolan Zajac, played for DU from 2012-2016 and missed any opportunity to face-off against his UND brothers due to their older age. Nolan also just missed playing against the fourth of Tom Zajac’s sons, Kelly, who played for Union (N.Y) College in 2011 against the Pioneers, the year before Nolan enrolled at DU.

Other recent UND/ DU brother connections include DU’s John Lee (2008-2012) who was too young to play against his older brother, Brian, who played for UND from 2005-2007, and Max Bull (2000-2004), who won an NCAA title with DU (as an assistant captain) and who was too young to play against older brother Jesse, who played at UND from 1995-1999 and won an NCAA title at UND in 1997.

While we’re on the subject of incoming DU players, here is the updated list of DUs incoming hockey freshmen for the 2020-2021 season:

F Carter Savoie, age 18 – Totally abused the Alberta Junior league with the Sherwood Park Crusaders at age 18 with 99 points in 54 games when the league shut down for Covid-19. He’s not big at 5-10, 190 lbs. or so, but projected by some to be a late second-round or third-round NHL draft pick. By far the best forward in DU’s recruiting class – a top-six threat when arrives on campus. Highly-skilled, he’s said to have a good array of shooting skills and has a deceptively quick release. His wrist shot and snapshot are both hard and accurate. He also is reputed to have a very good one-timer. As a skater, scouts like his acceleration and ability to quickly change speeds to be a weapon on the rush. He can quickly speed up and take a defender wide, or he can slow up and create a passing or shooting lane. Savoie is also said to make quick cuts and change directions with his excellent agility, edgework, and powerful stride.

Carter is the brother of Matt Savoie, who is projected to be among the top five picks in next year’s NHL draft.  Matt had briefly verbally committed to DU last year in order to potentially play with Carter later at DU, but Matt later decided to play Major Junior hockey instead of going the college route.

D Michael Benning, age 18 – Savoie’s teammate and best friend in Sherwood Park, Benning is a small, but skilled defenseman who is projected to be a late third or fourth-round pick in the NHL draft this year. According to scouts, Benning’s defensive game is based on his strong skating, smarts, and good gap control.  Scouts also like his lateral agility, positioning away from the puck, and his ability to cut-down passing lanes. The big concern for him among scouts is his lack of size, as he will need to bulk up and get stronger to play this game well at the college and pro levels. That said, he comes from a pretty famous hockey family: His brother is Matt Benning, who plays for the Edmonton Oilers, while his father, Brian Benning, was a long-time NHL player. His Grandfather, Elmer Benning, was a scout with the Montreal Canadiens, while his uncle, Jim Benning, was a long time NHLer and is the current NHL GM of Vancouver Canucks. His other uncle Mark Benning played for Notre Dame and Harvard, while his cousin Brandon Benning is an NHL scout with Vancouver.

F Connor Caponi, age 20, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) – At 5’9 and 180, He’s not a big scorer – more of a plugger/depth player who projects to be a third/fourth liner at DU. He’s the son of a former Marine and is expected to bring some toughness and grit to the DU lineup. He’d originally committed to Yale University, so the Pios are also getting a strong student. A good role model for Caponi would be DU’s Jake Durflinger, who plays his agitator role to perfection, getting under the skin of opponents.

D – Reid Irwin, age 21, Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) – Smooth, reliable, and experienced all around d-man at 6’1″ and 190 lbs. who should be ready to challenge for top six d-duty now that he’s entraining DU at age 21. He was paired with Michael Benning on the Crusaders’ backline last season and is also a teammate with Carter Savoie.

D Antti Tuomisto, age 19, Assat U20 (Finland) – He was a second-round pick of Detroit Red Wings last year, one spot behind current DU forward Bobby Brink. He has size (6’4″ 195 lbs.) and serious promise after dominating Finnish Junior League defensemen last season. He has worked on his defensive game, and former Pioneer Jarid Lukosevicius termed Tuomisto as “very hard to play against” after facing him during a Detroit development camp. He is Ian Mitchell’s likely replacement, and another in a long line of drafted Scandinavian players to sign with DU in recent years.

F McKade Webster, age 20, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – Seventh-round Tampa draft pick was a point per game player in USHL last year at 5’10 and 170 lbs– we would expect him to be a bottom-six forward next year, but has long term scoring potential. He could be the replacement for Tyler Ward, who transferred to the University of New Hampshire. He’s known to have a high motor and is a strong forechecker, but needs to work on his decision-making, according to scouts.

Josh Luedtke, a waterbug forward from Minnetonka, Minn., was also slated to join this DU class, but in May, he decided to switch his commitment to St. Cloud St. We’re hearing DU wanted him to go back to Juniors for another year, as he only had 20 points in 45 games last year in the USHL.  So instead of going back to juniors for another year, he jumped to St. Cloud.

2 thoughts on “Family Feud May Hit Denver & North Dakota Ice in 2021”

  1. Looking forward to seeing Seth in the crimson and gold in a couple years. He certainly comes from good bloodlines–his brother is a stud at UND and he was excellent for Team Canada at the WJC.

    Those photos of the Testuwuides are great. Have to love JP…….I remember him as a solid all-around player, great leader, a stabilizing and physical presence, and a guy who could knock your teeth in.

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