Seth Ambroz is one of the best players in the world in his age group. He is 17 with an April birthday.
The International Scouting Service rates the 6-3, 210-pound left wing fifth among prospects for the 2011 NHL draft at the Xcel in St. Paul.
But Gophers coach Don Lucia has asked him to play another season of junior hockey. He said he could not promise him enough ice time. Huh?
Ambroz left New Prague after his freshman season of high school. Last season was his second in the USHL and he was named an all-star. He had 22 goals and 27 asissts for 49 points in 56 games, almost a point per game. He played on the same line as center Erik Haula, a Finn who will play at the U.
Ambroz had 11 power play goals -- a notable Gophers weakness last season -- but the U doesn't need him. They have all those underachieving junior and senior forwards coming back for a second and third season, plus two recruited walk-ons for the fourth line.
Lucia, according to Sue Ambroz, Seth's mother, told her son and her that another year of juniors would probably be best for Seth in his draft year. At Omaha, he could be the team captain, play on power plays and penalty kills, get lots of ice time.
"As of today, as of right now, he is going back to Omaha," Sue Ambroz said on Friday.
Going back disappointed.
"Seth wanted to come in," Sue Ambroz said. "He felt he was ready. The bigger the challenges the better he does."
In the Gophers' first WCHA, they play the Nebraska-Omaha at Mariucci in mid-October. Seth had to be especially excited about playing in that series becauyse his brother Matt is a senior forward for UNO.
This summer Seth has been going back and forth between his home in New Prague and the U, where he works out off ice with his future Gopher teammates. He can't skate with them, though, so he is playing in a 3-on-3 league with pro players.
Ambroz also will be competing for the under-18 U.S. select team in the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial hockey tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia from Aug. 9-14.
Ambroz and his family may be still holding some hope if he dominates there or if a forward on the roster unexpectedly leaves, Lucia will change his mind.
Lucia told Seth he wouldn't play him on the fourth line, that he is better than that. So he had to make one of the top three lines or he would sit him.
He told Ambroz he needs to play and play a lot and the best place for him is Omaha.
"They still love Seth and want him to play there," Sue Ambroz said, referring to a meeting with Lucia and assistant coach Grant Potulny, "but he would have been the youngest kid in the WCHA in his [NHL] draft year and coach Lucia would have been under a lot of pressure to play him a lot."
Seems there is no room on the roster for a player expected to be a high pick in the first round of the NHL draft in 2011.
And the Gophers are coming off such a successful season, too. Seventh in the WCHA. Bounced by North Dakota in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Sitting in the stands for the West Regional at the Xcel.