The Florida Panthers landed the biggest collegiate free agent on the market Thursday as they signed North Dakota all-american defenseman Matt Kiersted.
A 22-year-old from Elk River, Minn., Kiersted has evolved into a high-end defenseman, scoring nine goals over the past two seasons for the Fighting Hawks.
This year, he scored three goals with 22 points in 29 games for UND.
According to reports, Kiersted had 20 NHL teams interested in signing him — and he landed with the Panthers.
“Matt is an exciting defenseman who plays the game with great speed and vision,” Florida GM Bill Zito said in the team’s announcement.
“His steady progression and development from an undrafted player to one of the NCAA’s top defensemen is a display of his resiliency and motivation to succeed.
“We are pleased to have agreed to a contract with Matt and look forward to his future with our organization.”
The signing of Kiersted had been rumored for the past couple of days and comes on the heels of the Panthers signing 2019 first-round pick Spencer Knight.
Honored and extremely excited to have signed my first contract with the @FlaPanthers thank you to family, friends, and coaches for helping me get to where I am. Work starts now 👊🏼 pic.twitter.com/8FVAtV3PgK
— Matt Kiersted (@KierstedMatt) April 1, 2021
Both players could join the team for the remainder of the season. Kiersted could go to AHL Syracuse and get some games in, but it is possible part of his agreement with the team was to report to Florida and get some big-league training and experience.
Kiersted played in the USHL before going to North Dakota and went undrafted allowing him to progress and choose his own team as a free agent.
As a senior, he tied for fifth among college defensemen in points and was tied for second in assists as UND won its conference and came within a win of the Frozen Four.
Kiersted led all North Dakota defensemen in points over the past three seasons.