|Photo: Daniel Mick|
Lettieri's four years at Minnesota came to an Saturday when the Gophers lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. The 22 year-old went undrafted. He chose to sign with the Rangers over Chicago, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who was first to report Lettieri's signing.
“Being a Gopher is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to play here at the University of Minnesota,” Lettieri said in a statement released by the University. “It’s bittersweet to be moving on from a place you love so much, but this has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and I’m thrilled to be signing with the Rangers organization.”
Lettieri, whose suit collection is already more than ready for the bright lights of Broadway, finished his senior season second on Minnesota in goals with 19 and had 37 points in 38 games. The Excelsior, MN native played in all situations, splitting the year between wing and center. He settled as Minnesota's second line center once Tommy Novak was lost for the season in early January.
This year doubled as a breakout performance, one where Lettieri scored more goals than the previous three combined. One reason for that (besides not shattering 15 sticks on one-timers) was getting the puck on net more. Throughout the season he mentioned needing to be little more selfish, trusting his quick release shot and skating to get him in position to shoot more. It came from everyone from his dad (former Minnesota Kicks goaltender Tino) to grandpa (former North Stars player/GM/Minnesota hockey mainstay Lou Nanne) to his coaches to himself.
Vinni Lettieri shots per game:
2013-14: 1.41 (2G)
2014-15: 2.16 (9G)
2015-16: 2.43 (7G)
2016-17: 3.47 (19G)
“He’s playing with confidence,” Lucia said of Lettieri in early January. “He’s responsible on both ends of the rink and is taking his game to another level. You could see it last year. This is just a continuation.”
Lettieri will report to New York's AHL affiliate in Hartford for the rest of the season.