Dalton Hunter will be a Laker. The Greensburg native, Latrobe alum and current Johnstown Tomahawks leading scorer committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Mercyhurst University this week. Hunter, 19, will start with the Lakers for the 2018-19 season.
Hunter has had a breakout season with the Tomahawks. After scoring eight goals in his first two seasons with the team, he’s already scored 24 this season, which is tied for the lead in the North American Hockey League.
On Friday, Hunter was named to the NAHL Select Team for the league’s 2017 Top Prospects Game, which will feature some of the top Division I-level talent in the country.
Pittsburgh Hockey Digest caught up with Hunter to talk about his big year and college commitment. The following is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.
PHD: Why did you decide to choose Mercyhurst?
DH: They showed a good bit of interest in me and I’ve known about the organization for a while now. I played up there a good bit with my high school team playing against Erie Cathedral Prep and so I have a little bit of a relationship with the coaching staff and some of the community there. I always felt like that was a good fit. I’m just really excited for it.
PHD: How much do you think the season you’re having effected the level of interest from colleges?
DH: I think it definitely changed a lot. I think the first couple years, it was an adjustment for me. Obviously, everyone wants you when you’re hot and you’re putting up points. Every team wants guys that can score goals and make plays that help the team out.
PHD: How nice has it been to play not only junior hockey, but now your college hockey, so close to home?
DH: I was thrilled when I was drafted by Johnstown. It’s meant a lot for my family and friends to be able to come to games. That’s something that I’ll never forget. You can’t get that when you’re far away. When you’re close, they can come to almost every home game and also help me with whatever I need, whether it’s with hockey, school or just life. It’s made it a lot easier adjustment and I think it will be again with Mercyhurst as close as it is.
PHD: What’s been the key to your big step forward this season?
DH: I think mostly confidence and playing time. The coaches have given me lots of opportunities that I’m grateful for — a lot of power play time. My linemates have been putting up similar numbers and making a lot of good plays. The whole organization has always treated me well and it’s started to click this year.
PHD: How would you describe your game?
DH: I’m a power forward. I’m about 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. I can throw the body on the forecheck and also make plays. I’m a pretty good passer and I think I have a good shot. I can score. That’s the big thing: hitting, shooting and playing a hard game.
PHD: What’s it like playing in Johnstown?
DH: It’s pretty awesome to play here. Night in and night out, whether you’re on a losing streak or a winning streak, the fans are always out to support you. That’s really nice to always have fans there. There’s not many places you can get that in junior hockey. It’s pretty special, for sure.