Gophers men's hockey team not hurt by early departures yet

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2014 - 12:38 AM

Nobody has left school early for the pros yet. “It’s a big decision,” forward Kyle Rau said.


Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox would be the biggest loss if he turns pro after his sophomore season.


CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The second day of the road trip for Gophers athletics included a stop in the childhood community of Don Lucia.

The hockey hotbeds of Grand Rapids and Coleraine were likely interested in the future of the Gophers, who were national runners-up. School is over and the student-athletes will be scattering back to their homes without any announcement of players leaving early for professional hockey.

The idea that the team remains intact this late in the spring, and more than a month after a 7-4 loss to Union in the national championship game, should be viewed as positive by Lucia, the Gophers head coach. If nobody leaves early, the majority of last season’s 28-7-6 team will be back, although four of the five departing seniors were regulars.

“It’d be nice if everyone could come back for another year,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. “If we get everyone back and make another run, that’d be awesome. That’s one thing I’d like to do, and that could affect my decision.”

Skjei, who will be a junior next season and was a 2012 first-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, is one of a handful of Gophers considering the option to turn pro. Three All-Americas are set to return — forward Kyle Rau, who will be a senior, and rising juniors Mike Reilly, a defenseman, and goalie Adam Wilcox.

Rau, a 2011 third-round draft pick by the Florida Panthers, led the team with 40 points. Wilcox, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, was a Hobey Baker and Mike Richter Award finalist, and finished with a .932 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average.

Reilly, who finished with 33 points and was a 2011 fourth-round pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets, is thought to be the most interested in moving on. However, Reilly said earlier this year that playing with his twin brothers and Gophers teammates, Connor and Ryan, could sway his decision to stay.

Talk among the team is that Wilcox is confident he’ll return. His departure would leave the biggest hole in the Gophers lineup.

Hudson Fasching, who had a strong freshman season as a first-line winger, had his rights traded from Los Angeles to rebuilding Buffalo, and has NHL size. The belief is that the Sabres would let him develop at least one more season with the Gophers.

“No one has left yet, which is important,” Rau said. “There’s no pressure between the guys to make a decision. The guys know the goal here is to play at the next level. … I’m not trying to set a deadline or anything, it’s a big decision. I don’t want to rush into anything, and you don’t want to keep everyone waiting.”

Players can sign any time; there is no “summer deadline.” But clearly Lucia would like to know sooner than later.

Following last season, the Gophers lost non-seniors Erik Haula, Nick Bjugstad, Nate Schmidt, Mark Alt and Zach Budish to pro hockey. Haula (Wild), Bjugstad (Florida) and Schmidt (Washington) ended up in the NHL.

The Gophers considering an early departure have already addressed their intentions with Lucia, but he wouldn’t name the individuals. Late in the season, Lucia said he didn’t think anyone had made significant strides in proving he was ready for the next level.

Senior forwards Nate Condon and Tom Serratore, defensemen Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau and backup goaltender Michael Shibrowski will be replaced by an impressive incoming recruiting class.

Swedish recruits Leon Bristedt and Robin Höglund are among the forwards likely to fill the holes. Ryan Collins (Bloomington), Jack Glover (Golden Valley) and Steve Johnson (Excelsior) are among the top recruits in the country at defenseman. Goaltender Nick Lehr (Roseville) should compete for the backup role to Wilcox. The Gophers have other players who have committed for the future and would play junior hockey next season if no other spots open; included in that group is Chanhassen forward Jack Ramsey, who signed a letter of intent last fall.

Lucia expects to have a clearer picture of who will remain by the end of May and will start extending invitations to fill holes in early June should players leave early.

“I really enjoyed this year’s team. It was fun. If everyone chooses to come back it would be a whole different team,” Lucia said, referring to the experience gained. “I always tell the kids, [make a decision] with both feet in. If you stay, that’s great, we want you. If you choose to take the next step, it is a business and you’re an asset.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 5:30 PM
Miami 82 4th Qtr 0:51
Boston 74
LA Lakers 39 3rd Qtr
New York 47
Arizona 3 3rd Prd 13:26
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 3rd Prd 10:13
Washington 2
Nashville 2 2nd Prd 8:17
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 0 1st Prd 13:10
Vancouver 0
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 1st OT 0:17
Michigan State 76
Marist 53 2nd Half 11:36
Canisius 42
Fordham 37 2nd Half 15:14
Dayton 57
Manhattan 51 2nd Half 15:55
Monmouth 26
Quinnipiac 54 2nd Half 13:15
Niagara 51
Utah 32 1st Half 0:01
USC 12
Connecticut 4 1st Half 12:08
Houston 6
California 10 1st Half 13:42
Washington 11
North Dakota St 15 1st Half 12:22
Western Ill 8
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 30 2nd Half 18:00
West Virginia 37
St Johns 33 2nd Half 15:16
Seton Hall 53
Delaware 53 2nd Half 12:02
Hofstra 42
Binghamton 32 2nd Half 10:58
UMass Lowell 53
Vermont 28 2nd Half 13:27
Hartford 32
William & Mary 43 2nd Half 10:11
Northeastern 41
Boston College 45 2nd Half 15:29
(16) North Carolina 43
Virginia 53 2nd Half 15:27
Clemson 37
(2) Connecticut 61 2nd Half 13:35
Temple 39
Arkansas 38 2nd Half 12:54
Alabama 29
Virginia Tech 48 2nd Half 12:56
Georgia Tech 48
Kansas 31 2nd Half 15:46
(3) Baylor 41
Canisius 33 2nd Half 14:51
Rider 27
Monmouth 27 2nd Half 12:41
Fairfield 30
Quinnipiac 49 2nd Half 14:08
Saint Peters 33
Butler 46 2nd Half 9:25
Creighton 42
Wichita State 37 2nd Half 15:22
Drake 38
Evansville 33 2nd Half 12:50
Indiana State 44
(18) Miss State 8 1st Half 13:40
(6) Tennessee 10
Villanova 7 1st Half 14:10
DePaul 14
Georgetown 6 1st Half 14:29
Marquette 4
North Texas 7 1st Half 14:21
Rice 7
Auburn 2 1st Half 13:43
(12) Texas A&M 10
(11) Arizona State 8 1st Half 12:08
Utah 9
Missouri State 9 1st Half 13:34
Northern Iowa 14
Michigan 11 1st Half 15:32
(15) Nebraska 7
Minnesota 20 1st Half 8:40
Northwestern 22
Wisconsin 12 1st Half 15:32
Illinois 12
Bradley 9 1st Half 12:51
Southern Ill 13
Florida 3:00 PM
(20) Iowa 3:00 PM
(5) Maryland
(1) South Carolina 3:30 PM
Ole Miss
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question