Nate Schmidt, who had a terrific junior season and was named first-team all-WCHA, is skipping his senior season with the Gophers and has signed a two-year entry level contract with the Washington Capitals. He was undrafted, but he showed enough over the past two seasons in particular to draw the attention of NHL teams.
Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo confirmed the news shortly before the University of Minnesota announced it officially.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience at the University of Minnesota for anything, and I am incredibly grateful to the team and staff for three great seasons at the ‘U,’ Schmidt said in a news release. “This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it is the right decision, and I am looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my playing career.”
Said Gophers coach Don Lucia: “Nate is a great example of someone who was overlooked in the draft but worked hard on and off the ice to put himself in great position to become our top defenseman the last two years. He had two tremendous years and felt he was ready to take his game to the next level."
Minnesota now awaits word on three other juniors who could leave early: Zach Budish, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula. A tweet from Haula on Tuesday indicating Budish was also going pro with the Predators has since been deleted.