Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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The Gophers completed their early signing period with a fifth commitment on Wednesday.
Swedish standout Leon Bristedt was the final future Gopher to sign his letter of intent two weeks after the other four recruits made their commitments official.
Bristedt will become the third player born outside of North America to skate for the Gophers. He visited the campus in late October and announced his commitment on Twitter Wednesday morning in English and Swedish.
The other commitments are local products Jack Glover (U.S. National Development Program/Benilde-St. Margaret’s), Ryan Collins (U.S. National Development Program/Benilde-St. Margaret’s), Steve Johnson (Omaha Lancers, USHL/Minnetonka High School), and Jack Ramsey (Penticton Vees, BCHL/Minnetonka High School). Signing day blog.
“We are excited to announce our new signing class. It’s a talented class and one that fills a lot of our needs,” coach Don Lucia said. “All five guys are good hockey players, and more importantly, they are good people that will fit well with our team as well as our program philosophy.”
There’s a chance Ramsey will play another year of juniors before joining the Gophers. A lot depends on how many players sign NHL contracts, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Grant Potulny said.
The NHL clubs are traditionally good at giving the Gophers a heads up if they'll try to sign one of their players, Potulny added.
Ramsey’s sister, Rachel Ramsey, a Gophers women’s hockey standout, confirmed last week that her brother had officially committed to the men’s program, but said he was also committed to adding more size before he makes the jump to college.
Potulny described Ramsey as a “big strong power forward that skates extremely well.”
“It’s hard because you don’t know what’s going to happen with your team. It’s an ongoing thing here and if guys keep [leaving for the NHL] it will give someone else a chance,” Potulny said.
The Gophers still need to add a goaltender for next season, but Lucia said they are taking their time in this recruiting process.
(Hear what Lucia has to say about the commitments in the below video)
More on the incoming class per Gophers staff:
A native of Vaxholm, Sweden, Bristedt is set to become just the third player from outside of North America to skate for the Gophers, joining current New York Islander Thomas Vanek (2003-04; Graz, Austria) and current Minnesota Wild prospect Erik Haula (2011-13; Pori, Finland). The forward has spent the last two seasons skating with the Linkoping organization in Sweden including a 2013-14 campaign that has seen Bristedt lead the Sweden J-20 league with 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 22 games. The signee helped Sweden to a quarterfinal appearance at the 2013 IIHF World U-18 Championships in Sochi, Russia with four points (three goals, one assist) in five games.
A Bloomington, Minn., native, Collins has skated the last two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., after helping Benilde-St. Margaret claim the 2012 Class 2A state title in with a goal and four assists in 29 games. Last year with the U.S. U-17 team, the defenseman skated in all 56 games with two goals and seven assists and has one assist in 11 games this season with the USNDTP. Collins has represented the U.S. at the 2012 Four Nations Tournament in Switzerland (gold medal), the 2013 Five Nations Tournament in Finland (bronze medal) and the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge in Canada (bronze medal). The signee participated in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh last September and is eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The defenseman was included on NHL Central Scouting’s watch list in November. Collins’ father, Dan, played hockey at Connecticut College while his uncle, Jim Warner, played hockey for Colorado College and had stints in the AHL, the WHA and the NHL.
A Golden Valley, Minn., native, Glover is also in his second year with the USNDTP, having skated in all 56 games for the U.S. Under-17 Team last season with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists). The defenseman has seven points (one goal, six assists) through 11 games this season and was invited to the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh last September. On the international level, Glover helped USA Hockey win gold at the 2012 Four Nations Tournament in Switzerland and was also on bronze-medal teams at the 2013 Five Nations Tournament in Finland and the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge in Canada. Prior to joining the USNDTP, Glover skated in 27 games during Benilde-St. Margaret’s state title run, notching two goals and 16 assists. Glover is eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was included on NHL Central Scouting’s watch list in November.
A native of Excelsior, Minn., Johnson will join the Gophers after skating with the Omaha Lancers in the USHL in 2013-14. The defenseman has 11 assists through 15 games with the Lancers after scoring 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 59 games for the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL in 2012-13. Johnson continues a notable line of Omaha defensemen to play for the Gophers including current defensemen Justin Holl and Ben Marshall. Prior to his juniors career, Johnson skated at Minnetonka High School with fellow signee Jack Ramsey and current Gopher Vinni Lettieri. On the international level, Johnson has represented the U.S. at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, helping USA Hockey to its second-straight gold medal and fifth overall.
A native of Chanhassen, Minn., Ramsey is currently skating for the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. Through 25 games this season, the forward has seven points (two goals, five assists). Prior to joining the Vees, Ramsey spent the 2012-13 with Minnetonka High School, scoring 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 24 games. The signee skated at Minnetonka with fellow signee Steven Johnson and current Gopher Vinni Lettieri. Ramsey’s father, Mike, played for the Gophers and was part of the USA’s gold medal team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., before a lengthy NHL playing and coaching career. Ramsey’s sister, Rachel, is a captain on the Minnesota women’s hockey team. Ramsey is eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was included on NHL Central Scouting’s watch list in November.
Gophers coach Don Lucia:
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