Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tyler Sheehy named 2017-18 Gopher Hockey Captain

(Author's note: Been extremely busy of late so I'm doing some catching up on news that happened last week/early this week. Thanks all for being patient and understanding.)

First team All-American forward Tyler Sheehy can add University of Minnesota team captain to his growing list of honors.

Needing to replace its entire leadership core for the third time in six seasons, Minnesota announced Monday (April 24, 2017) that Sheehy would be the next player to wear a "C" for the Gopher men's hockey team.

Two-year captain Justin Kloos and alternates Jake Bischoff and Connor Reilly were all seniors in 2016-17.

Sheehy, the Big Ten Player of the Year as a sophomore, finished with 53 points (20G-33A) in 38 games. The Burnsville, MN native spent much of the season playing on the right wing of Minnesota's top line with Kloos and eventually freshman Rem Pitlick.

"It's obviously a great honor to be a leader in this kind of organization, this kind of program," said Sheehy, who will be a junior, told

On top of Sheehy being named team captain, the 2017-18 Gophers will have three players wearing an "A" as alternate captains. They will be senior forwards Mike Szmatula and Leon Bristedt, along with sophomore defender Ryan Lindgren.

“We’re really excited about the guys we have in the locker room next year, and that starts with our captains,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a statement. “Each of them is ‘all-in’ on being a Gopher, and they are terrific representatives of our program and the University of Minnesota.”

Each of the three alternates - rather than a normal two, an idea which the team also used in 2015-16 when the previous group graduated - bring in a different perspective. Bristedt, for example, is the lone returning senior with three years of regular playing time. (He'll also be the first ever European senior in Minnesota men's hockey history.)

Szmatula is the oldest player on the Gophers and has played for a variety of teams between Minnesota, Northeastern, Dubuque (USHL) where he was an alternate, and going further back to Michigan. Lindgren, meanwhile, was a captain at the USNTDP and will be the first sophomore to wear a letter since Jordan Schroeder in 2009-2010.

Minnesota took the Big Ten lead in making its leadership core public. Other teams in the conference have yet to announce theirs although in fairness both Michigan schools had more pressing issues like head coaching positions to fill.

That said, the Gophers in recent years waited until late August or early September to name its captains publicly.

While Lucia stated Sheehy ended up being chosen as captain by teammates, announcing now in April rather than closer to the start of the season sends a subtle message. Anointing Sheehy captain says that he (along with Szmatula and Bristedt) will be returning to college after a season where the sophomore and undrafted free agent was named a Hobey Baker top-ten finalist without bringing attention.

The team is already working towards 2017-18 in spite of the month being full of losses, from players (six seniors plus Ryan Collins) to commits (Clay Hanus) to assistant coaches (Grant Potulny taking the Northern Michigan job). In a way this stops the bleeding. Getting Sheehy to talk about wearing the "C" and next season helps turn the page from a disappointing ending in the NCAA Tournament.

Even if next season is five months and change away.

"I think the season ended a little too early for us this past year. Getting back in to workouts and skating a little bit here and there (with the guys). Most importantly, we want to be able to get a lot stronger this summer with the new guys coming in - I can't wait to meet them - we have a great group," he said. "So it's going to be real fun to build it up, get stronger and go from there."

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