Thursday, April 6, 2017

BLOG: Clay Hanus decommits from Minnesota

Clay Hanus, previously a verbal commit to Minnesota, signed Thursday with the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks beginning next season.

It's rare for the Gophers to lose a committed player to major juniors prior to playing college hockey. Hanus, not expected on campus until at least 2019, joins Peter Mueller in that category.

The news was not a surprise to Minnesota as Hanus had recently let them know he was going in a different direction than the program. The 2001-born Minnetonka native verbally committed to the Gophers in late September 2016 as a high school freshman considered to be one of the top defensemen in his age group.

Listed at 5'10", 165 lbs, Hanus' HS season with the Skippers was cut short this year. He only appeared in 7 games before an injury in early January sidelined him the rest of the season. Prior to playing high school Hanus was on a Minnesota U16 Blades team coached by former Gopher Lance Pitlick. (Hanus' dad, Tim, played college hockey at St. Cloud State from 1988-1992.)

By choosing to play in the WHL, Hanus will forgo his college hockey eligibility. Canadian major juniors (which the WHL is a part of along with the OHL and CHL) are considered by the NCAA to be professionals.

Portland added Hanus to its protected list this past July. That the Winterhawks did is nothing new. Portland holds the rights of several other Minnesota commits, including incoming freshmen Brannon McManus and Scott Reedy as long shots in case something happens. Most of the time nothing does.

In the case of Hanus, heading to the WHL at the age of 16, that paid off for the Winterhawks at the expense of a future Gopher blue liner.

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