Zajac, Smaby Depart UND For Pros

One week after playing in its second consecutive Frozen Four, North Dakota is down two players for an attempt at a repeat performance in 2006-07.

Junior defenseman Matt Smaby — UND’s captain in 2005-06 — and sophomore forward Travis Zajac have decided to forego their remaining college eligibility and sign professional contracts, the school announced Thursday.

Terms of the players’ contracts were not announced.

Smaby signed a contract with Tampa Bay and said he will report to the Lightning this summer. A second-round selection of Tampa Bay in the 2003 NHL entry draft, Smaby indicated that he plans to finish the spring academic semester at UND.

Smaby, a 6-5, 200-pounder from Minneapolis, played in 129 games over three seasons for UND, scoring six goals and recording 23 assists for 29 points. He had a career-best 19 points on four goals and 15 assists this past season.

Zajac, a first-round selection (20th overall) of the New Jersey Devils in the 2004 draft, signed with New Jersey and will report this week to the Devils’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany River Rats.

Zajac, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was UND’s second-leading scorer this season with 47 points, with 18 goals and a team-high 29 assists in 46 games.

The 6-2, 205-pounder played in all 91 of UND’s games in his two-year college career, scoring 38 goals and recording 48 assists for 86 points. This past season, Zajac had six points (three goals, three assists) in three NCAA tournament games, tying for the NCAA tournament lead in total points.

Zajac scored 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in seven career NCAA games and had 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 17 overall postseason games.

Smaby and Zajac helped UND win the 2005-06 WCHA playoff championship, and played on UND’s 2005 and 2006 NCAA Frozen Four teams. Smaby was also a member of UND’s 2004 WCHA championship team.

North Dakota advanced to the Frozen Four in Milwaukee this season after winning the West Regional at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Fighting Sioux were defeated 6-5 by Boston College in the national semifinals.