One Gophers hockey fan who regularly e-mails me, call him P.H., had a few questions this week.
A. I predicted the lines a couple months ago and the D-pairings a few weeks later. Just tweaked them a little today.
To get my mind on college hockey again, I called Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia on Thursday afternoon before he left for vacation.
He said his 27-man roster is set: three goalies, eight defensemen and 16 forwards. Before I had a chance to talk about specific players, his cell phone started breaking up and then I lost the connection. Couldn't get him back.
A colleague suggested Lucia hung up on me because I asked a question he didn't want to respond to. Hmm??? Nah, don't think so.
I already had a pretty good idea of the new players Lucia was bringing in. So here's a look at the Gophers for the 2011-12 season, with my projected lineups -- Don, you don't have to thank me:
LW C RW
Kyle Rau, 5-8, 160, fr. Nick Bjugstad, 6-4, 204, so. Zach Budish, 6-3, 221, redshirt so.
Comments: Rau is a sniper who led Eden Prairie H.S. to Class 2A state title and kept scoring for Sioux Falls in the USHL playoffs. Bjugstad started dominating late in his first season and just had a strong prospects camp with Florida Panthers of NHL. Budish, who missed most of last season, is a big body who should be able to get puck out of corners.
Nate Condon, 5-11, 195, so. Erik Haula, 5-10, 184, so. Seth Ambroz, 6-3, 215, fr.
Comments: Haula started season fast on first line, ended playing with broken foot. Condon played center a lot last season, so he can handle the puck. Ambroz is a power forward with three USHL seasons behind him. He fell to fifth round of NHL draft after being projected to go in second round. Should start season with something to prove. Was Haula's linemate two years ago at Omaha.
Sam Warning,5-9, 175, fr. Taylor Matson, 6-0, 185, sr. Jake Hansen, 6-2, 191, sr.
Comments: Matson is the team captain but, in three seasons, has never finished a season healthy. Hansen came on strong at end of junior year. Should push top two RWs. Last seaosn Warning scored 28 goals in regular season for Cedar Rapids of USHL.
Tom Serratore, 5-11, 190, so. Nico Sacchetti, 6-0, 193, sr. Nick Larson, 6-1. 188, sr.
Comments: Sacchetti and Larson could easily switch spots on this line or play on the third line if needed. Serratore is a player that provides grit.
That still leaves four players fighting for ice time. Gophers will probably shuffle their lineup some, as they do every year. Also injuries and illnesses always take a toll.
Christian Isackson, 6-0, 185, fr., RW ... Offers depth at right wing. Coming off strong season at Sioux Falls of USHL.
Travis Boyd, 5-11, 185, fr. LW or C ... Played for under-18 U.S. nat'l development team last season. Accelerated his high school education to join Gophers early.
Jared Larson, 6-3, 185, so, LW or C ... After year of sitting on bench will be hungry to play.
Joe Miller, 5-11, 201, sr., LW or RW ... Provides energy whenever he plays. Has not seen ice much in his career.
Left defense right defense
1st pair Ben Marshall, 5-10, 166, fr. Mark Alt, 6-3, 195, so.
Comments: Marshall was a second all-USHL team member for Omaha; Alt got better second half of season. Two young players with potential
2nd Seth Helgeson, 6-5,220, jr. Justin Holl, 6-2, 180, so.
Comments: Two returning players. Helgeson is a stay at home, defensive D-man; Holl has some offensive moves and can rush up ice. Holl has been invited to U.S. junior national evaluation camp in August. He underwhelmed U coaches with his practices early last season and sat a lot, but should know expectations now.
3rd Nate Schmidt, 5-11, 200, so. Blake Thompson, 6-3, 220, fr.
Comments: Schmidt was in and out of the lineup last season, even played some at forward. Thompson is a three-year USHL veteran with leadership skills.
4th Jake Parenteau, 5-10, 190, so. Chris Student, 5-9, 170, so.
Comments: Parenteau played sparingly last season but can hit a bit. Student went to school at Benilde-St. Margaret's before playing for Northeastern one season. Sat out last season as a transfer. Both seem capable of working their way into top six.
1st Kent Patterson, 6-1, 195, sr.
2nd Mike Shibrowksi, 6-3, 180, so.
3rd Jake Kremer, 6-1, 195, sr.
Comments: Patterson is the clear No. 1 goalie and Lucia probably wants him to play 95 percent of the time if not more. Shibrowski played two games at Colorado College two seasons ago and was the team MVP for Des Moines of the USHL last season. Kremer has been the practice goalie for three seasons.
Top six forwards could be pretty young, all freshmen and sophomores. The seniors are on the bottom two lines. But there is talent there. Three incoming freshmen were taken in the recent NHL draft, Rau in the third round, Ambroz in the fifth and Boyd in the sixth.
Gophers have added size with players like Ambroz and Thompson and scoring punch with snipers like Rau and Warning.
Should be an interesting season.
Lucia said he has not signed a contract extension yet and his son, Mario, still hasn't made his college choice.
In a previous conversation, he had said he was not concerned about the extention. That it would get done this summer. Could Mario be waiting for him to sign before he commits to Minnesota?
During Wild prospects camp, Mario said he was leaning toward Notre Dame. Colorado College is his third finalist.
Don Lucia said he watched Mario play Saturday and Sunday in the two prospects' scrimmages at the X. "It was a great experience [for Mario] and reinforced some things for him," his father said.
Mario played for Wayzata High School this past season. But is giving up his senior year of high school hockey to play for Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League.