On Monday, the Gophers offered Max Gardiner a spot on their roster this season. He accepted; his other option was to play for Des Moines in the UHSL.
So what kind of player is Gardiner? Who better to ask than his high school coach.
"First thing, his is a competitor," Skippers coach Brian Urick said. "The kid willl work his butt off every day in practice and in every game. I'm thrilled the 'U' is getting a player like him. They need more guys with that work ethic and that character."
Gardiner had 22 goals and 32 assists for 54 points in just 23 games for the Skippers as a senior. He missed eight games after suffering a broken wrist in a Christmas tournament.
"He set a goal and was pretty determined to be back at a certain time," Urick said, "but he came down with mononucleosis. [The delay] was probably better to let the wrist fully heal.
"He has good hands, protects the puck well. It will take some time for him to adjust to speed, but he will work extra hard and do what it take to play at that level."
He dominated at the high school level, with more than two points per game. "Every game he had two, three points," Urick said. "He was kind of a leader in our locker room. He was real vocal. The kids looked up to him."
Max's older brother, Jake, will be a junior defenseman for Wisconsin.
"It will be be fun to watch those two guys compete," Urick said. "Jake is a little more laid back, real quiet. Both have the same work ethic. Those Gardiner boys work their tails off, that’s why they are good hockey players. Max is a little more vocal, more physical. Jake is a little more free flowing. Max is a power guy who is not afraid to bull rush you."
Urick played Max Gardiner at center but he said the Gophers will probably move him to left wing because he would have less defensive responsiblity there. Gardiner shoots left-handed.
"I liked [Max] at center where he could keep his feet moving and swoop in," Urick said, "rather than stop and start. He sees the ice really well, understands game, and he's an all-around player."
Gardiner was on the Skippers' varsity for three seasons. He was an assistant captain as a junior and the captain last season.
HOLL NEXT IN LINE
Sophomore defenseman Nick Leddy of the Gophers is considering turning pro, according to a source close to him. If he does, that would be a big loss for the U. He played on the first pair of defensemen with David Fischer last season.
But if Leddy does sign with the Chicago Blackhawks, who acquired his draft rights in a trade with the Wild, a teammate of Gardiner's could be joining him on the roster.
Justin Holl signed with the Gophers last November as did Gardiner. Holl was planning on playing for Omaha in the USHL this winter.
But if Leddy signs the D-corps would be down to seven. Not counting Leddy, there are four D-men returning: senior Kevin Wehrs and Cade Fairchild, junior Aaron Ness and sophomore Seth Helgeson.
Three freshmen are coming in: Nate Schmidt of Fargo (USHL), Mark Alt of Cretin-Derham Hall and Jake Parenteau of the Alaska Avalanche (NAHL). Parenteau is a recruited walk-on.
Last season the Gophers started with eight D-men, but played most of the season with seven after Sam Lofquist left the team early in the season to play in Canada. The Gophers sometimes had forward Nick Larson play with the defenseman in practice.
Coach Don Lucia probably does not want to be in the same predicament, which just seven D-men from the start.
SIX FRESHMEN FORWARDS COMING IN
With Gardiner, there are six freshmen forwards joining the team for the 2010-11 season. The other are USHL players Erik Haula, Nate Condon and Tom Serratore; Jared Larson of the NAHL and Nick Bjugstad of Blaine H.S.
Eleven forwards return, so that's a total of 17. Only 12 can play a night. Got to wonder how that would work?