Hudson Fasching will be back on the Gophers’ first line next season. The big forward from Burnsville, Minn., confirmed to the Star Tribune on Friday that he will return for his junior season, ending any speculation that he would be the fourth Gophers hockey standout to leave college early and sign a pro contract this offseason.

“I’m ecstatic about coming back,” Fasching said. “I love it here and love Gopher hockey and love playing at Mariucci. … We lost some key guys, but we still have a lot here and a lot coming in.”

The Gophers lost six contributing seniors to graduation, including fan favorite Kyle Rau, and three standout juniors – goaltender Adam Wilcox and defensemen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly – signed pro contracts or plan to.

Fasching had been considered another name that might sign, but hinted he’d return for his junior year via Twitter on Wednesday: “All the hard work the boys and I have been putting in this spring has me excited to get the season going again. #gopherhockey”

His work since the Gophers’ first-round exit from the NCAA tournament has been limited, though. Fasching said he had surgery in late April to remove a piece of bone that had broken off in his right knee while playing with the USA Hockey at the World Junior Championships over Christmas break.

Despite the injury, Fasching didn’t miss any ice time for the Gophers and finished sixth in scoring with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) and a plus-18 rating.

“I kind of knew for a while [I’d return for another year of college hockey], I was just making sure everything was smoothed out. … I wanted to make sure [the surgery] went well and I was ready to go for next year. … It’s healing up really well and I’m doing rehab.”

Fasching said he hopes to get back on the ice in a couple weeks.

Last March, Fasching’s draft rights were traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Buffalo Sabres, a young organization in a rebuilding phase. Joe Battista, Sabres vice president of hockey-related business, told the Star Tribune he thought Fasching would have a good opportunity to make the jump into the organization after his sophomore year, but added that another year with the Gophers would likely benefit Fasching.

“We see tremendous upside with him,” Battista said earlier this year. “He’s going to be a net presence and be a guy playing on the power play.”

Fasching said the Sabres didn’t put much pressure on him to sign.

“There was a little bit of push and pull, but they’re still trying to develop right now so they’re perfectly fine with me staying at Minnesota,” he said. “They were very understanding and have been great at making sure I’m still developing here and growing as a player.”

The 6-2, 207-pound right wing has played on the first line with Rau since he stepped on campus and represented USA Hockey in each of the past two World Junior Championships.  

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