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Isles prospect Aaron Ness plans on returning to University of Minnesota next year

 After much speculation that Islanders prospect Aaron Ness may leave the University of Minnesota, the 19-year-old defenseman has decided to return next season, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia told Newsday.

While that doesn't guarantee Ness will return for his junior year, he is currently planning on continuing his collegiate career. However, Ness also plans to attend Islanders camp this summer so a change of heart remains a possibility.

Coach Lucia said he felt Ness, a second-round pick in 2008, made strides defensively this season despite a lack of offensive production (2 goals, 10 assists in 39 games).

"We struggled as a team to score offensively, but where Aaron made great improvement is on the defensive aspect of his game--getting sticks up, boxing out in front of the net," Lucia said.

Lucia  plans on pairing Ness with a stay-at-home defenseman  next season to allow him the opportunity to become more involved offensively as opposed to this past season when Ness was paired with the similarly offensive-minded Cade Fairchild.

"Next year he'll be able to jump into the play more and become more involved offensively, because that's when he is at his best."

Lucia also said Ness will be working  on gaining weight and building strength in the off-season.

"He works hard and wants to get better," Lucia said. "He's a great kid with a bright future."

New York Sports