Omaha coach Bliss Littler is not among those who say Seth Ambroz, the future Gopher, had a disappointing season with the Lancers.
He had a different role, Little said, and did what was expected of him.
Ambroz, a 6-2, 210 power forward, could sneak into the first round of the NHL draft on Friday at the X, or more likely, he will be taken early Saturday when the draft resumes with rounds 2-7 at 10 a.m.
He is ranked No. 31 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
"Seth played on a team with a lot of young forwards this season," Littler said. "His first year he was with Louis Leblanc and Pat Mullane. We had a lot older leaders. And last year he was with the best forward in the league in Matt White and Eric Haula.
"His role changed this season. His numbers were still good and his game improved in a lot of areas. Every night he had two, three blocks, eight-10 bumps. He had seven, eight chances and his chances against were at a minimum. His leadership skills were challenged and tested."
Ambroz played high school hockey for New Prague as a high school freshman, then tried out and made Omaha's USHL roster as a sophomore. He turned 18 in April.
Here are his stats with the Lancers:
Games Goals Assists Points +/-
2008-09 63 14 17 31 -13
2009-10 64 26 29 55 +23
2010-11 59 26 22 48 +2
Totals 186 66 68 134 +12
"It does not matter what league he plays in, he will be a power forward," Littler said. "[Seth's] challenge will be to improve his skating and get to tight areas around the net.
Ambroz was often mentioned as a cinch first round pick -- maybe top 10 -- early in the season. But that was by bloggers, Littler said. He said he puts a lot more credibility into what NHL general managers say. "He may have started a little high" in the draft projections, Littler said, "but I would not bet against Seth Ambroz."
The Lancers used him on their power play for three seasons.
Ambroz led Omaha in shots on goal by a wide margin. He had 238 shots on goal -- just over four per game -- and was second on the Lancers in penalty minutes with 93, one behind the team leader.
Another of the Lancers' top players this past season was defenseman Ben Marshall, who played high school hockey for Mahtomedi through his junior year. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Red Wings last year and will be another of the incoming Gophers freshmen.
"[Ben] will be a lot of fun for Gophers fans to watch," Littler said. "He got hurt at the Wings' camp last summer but when he was healthy, he was as effective as any defenseman in the league."
Marshall, coming off a broken left wrist, still had 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points for Omaha in 62 games. He was a plus-17 and had 152 shots on goal for the Lancers -- only Ambroz had more.
Marshall, 5-9, 170, has the ability to get out of pressure situations, Littler said, and create something out of harmless looking plays.
"People have always said he is little and can't do this," Littler said, "but he has succeeded at every level."