Tommy Vannelli could have gone to Ann Arbor, Mich., and joined the U.S. national development team. But he chose to stay home, and play with Minnetonka.
Now, it seems, he has decided to stay home for college, too. Late this afternoon, he announced he had committed to the U of M.
Vannelli is a 6-2, 175-pound defenseman who appears to be on the fast track in development.
Last season he had seven goals and 18 assists in 28 games with Tonka. This summer he was at the USA Hockey Select 17 camp in June and played with the U.S. team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in ther Czech Republic and Slovakia in August.
This fall he was on the Team Northwest team in the Upper Midwest Elite League. His team tied for first during the regular season with a 14-4-3 record while he had four goals and 10 assists for 14 points.
He is 17 and a second cousin to the Vannelli brothers, Tom and Greg, who coach St. Thomas Academy. The Skippers, off to a 3-0-0 start, play the Cadets, a Class 1A power, on Thursday at Pagel, the Skippers' arena. Minnetonka has beaten Apple Valley, Osseo and Hibbing without much trouble so far, outscoring them 18-3 and holding them to an average of 12 shots.
Tommy Vannelli has one goal and five assists in those three games for six points.
PIPELINE TO MINNETONKA
The Gophers already have one Minnetonka player on their roster, junior defenseman Justin Holl.
And, in late October, junior forward Jack Ramsey of the Skippers committed to the U. Then there is Vinni Letteri. He would have been a senior forward at Minnetonka this season but chose to play in the USHL for the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars.
Letteri also has committed to the U. He is the grandson of Lou Nanne, the ex-North Stars and Gopher player. He led Minnetonka in scoring last seaosn with 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points in 28 games.
This season Lettieri, who turns 18 in February, has six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 17 games for the Stars. He is 5-8 or 5-9, 165 or 170, depending on where you look on the Internet, and a plus-5 in even-strength situations at Lincoln.
So Vannelli makes it three Skippers on the way to Don Lucia's Gophers. ... Max Gardiner, another Minnetonka forward, was at the U for one season, but left. He played in the USHL for Dubuque last season and now is a sophomore center at Penn State (6-5-0). Gardiner is the Nittany Lions' second-leading scorer with two goals and seven assists for nine points.