General Manager Craig Heisinger and the Manitoba Moose have continued their busy week Tuesday, as the team agreed to terms with two more young forwards. In appearing to prioritize a youthful-looking 2020-21 squad, the Moose added some skill and depth for the coming season, putting pen to paper with the University of North Dakota’s Westin Michaud and Northeastern University’s Biagio Lerario.
Michaud, 24, put up 16 goals and 28 points in 35 games with UND in 2019-20, after switching over as a graduate transfer from Colorado College. He was tied atop the team lead in goals, while his Fighting Hawks were the NCHC’s top performing team in the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 regular season.
“It feels great,” Michaud said from his home in Duluth, MN. while chatting with Moose TV’s Austin Siragusa Wednesday. “Especially with all the hard work I have put in the past few years to get to where I am now today. I am very thankful for the past coaches, teammates, family and everyone for the support… I am very excited and cannot wait to play in front of the fans, and more importantly with the new teammates and form that winning identity for next season.”
Prior to his transfer, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound forward put up 29 goals and 62 points in 114 games with Colorado College.
“Colorado College was a wonderful time and a great place,” Michaud added. “Great academics, the fans were awesome and I’m thankful for the coaching staff. But obviously this last year at North Dakota was a dream come true. It’s a destination to play college hockey at. Its the best college hockey organization in the NCAA. The fans are absolutely incredible. Playing in front of them at the Ralph Engelstad Arena it’s spectacular. And the culture and tradition there is the most important aspect of becoming great and wanting to drive yourself to become better every single day.”
Michaud actually skated in Winnipeg at last year’s development camp in the fall, where he quickly gained insight on True North Sports + Entertainment, along with the coaching staff and front office of the two local professional teams. But it was two other players within the Jets’ organization who helped sway Michaud to putting pen to paper on his deal.
“I called Neal Pionk right away, because we were closing growing up – we actually played on the same AAA team throughout our youth careers – and he talked highly about the whole entire organization,” Michaud said. “Right there and then I just knew it was the perfect fit right before I signed the AHL deal. Neal spoke highly of the entire organization and how much he loves it there and how excited he was to hopefully come back and play in the playoffs in Winnipeg. I also talked and texted with Dylan Samberg after he signed his deal as well.”
In Michaud, the Moose should expect a down-low, net-front presence on the power play, as well as a fully-capable penalty killer. He filled both roles handily for the Fighting Hawks this past season.
Lerario, 24, had himself a quiet seven-point campaign in 2019-20, where he put up four goals and three assists in 32 games at centre for Northeastern University. Despite putting up just 12 goals and 29 total points over his four-year, 122-game career, the business major was well known for his physicality, energy and toughness that he displayed on a nightly basis, while serving in a leadership role for the Huskies.
“I’m extremely happy and pleased for Biagio to get the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream of playing professional hockey,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said in a team-issued press release. “Biagio has turned himself into a reliable two-way center with a high compete level. We thank him for his contributions to Northeastern hockey and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his hockey career.”