Friday, June 30, 2017

BLOG: Jack Jensen and Blake McLaughlin make 2017 Ivan Hlinka US roster

Two Minnesota verbal commits will represent the United States at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

Forwards Jack Jensen (Eden Prairie) and Blake McLaughlin (Grand Rapids) both made the roster for the August 7-12 tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Bratislava, Slovakia. The American roster consists of the top players born in 2000 not playing for the USNTDP, as that team makes up the majority of the roster in the other major U-18 international tournament (U-18 WJC in April).

Jensen and McLaughlin, along with fellow verbal commit Colin Schmidt (Wayzata), spent the past week in Amherst, NY as part of the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp. There McLaughlin was one of the top performers, finishing with eight points in five games. All three were named to the camp's all-star game.

Current Gophers Brent Gates Jr. and Tommy Novak previously skated in the Ivan Hlinka tournament, which is a first opportunity for players to be noticed internationally in their draft year.

The full United States roster can be found here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

BLOG: An Ongoing List of Gophers at NHL Development Camp (Updated)

NHL development camps have begun in full swing this week, with several more on the way throughout July.

These camps, hosted by each of the 31 NHL teams, give young players a summer opportunity to spend a week on and off the ice learning from a professional organization.

For undrafted players, being a development camp invitee gives them a chance to test themselves and make an impression when it comes time to sign free agents. Two of Minnesota's graduating seniors - Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri - ended up signing with NHL teams that at one time invited them to a development camp.

"I learned a lot of small details that can help improve my game as far as on the ice," Kloos told me early last season about attending the Minnesota Wild development camp on an invite. "Tipping and cycling and making plays and understanding gaps and stuff like that is always helpful from all the good guys that are former professional players over there. So really taking in every opportunity, realizing that you’re not a perfect player is a good thing when you’re fortunate enough to play at higher levels."

Draft picks meet with the team that holds their rights and come up with a game plan for the next season. (Important for the four players with Minnesota ties who were drafted this past weekend.) It's often the one time the two get to spend a significant time together. NCAA players pay their own way and are in school when NHL prospect tournaments and training camps are underway.

Below is an ongoing list of Gopher players attending NHL development camps. A few already are not attending whether due to summer classes, injury or they've already been to too many. Senior defenseman Steve Johnson is not on the Los Angeles Kings roster, nor is New York Rangers draft pick Tyler Nanne listed. Same goes for Taylor Cammarata with the Islanders.

The list will be updated when more rosters are announced (i.e. Buffalo's development camp won't be until July 7-11).

Minnesota Commits:


-Sam Huff (Minnesota)*


-Sammy Walker (Tampa Bay)
-Clayton Phillips (Pittsburgh)

Current Players


-Rem Pitlick (Nashville)
-Tommy Novak (Nashville)
-Darian Romanko (Vegas)*
-Brent Gates Jr. (Anaheim)
-Scott Reedy (San Jose)
-Leon Bristedt (Minnesota)*
-Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo)
-Jack Ramsey (Chicago)


-Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Tampa Bay)
-Jack Glover (Winnipeg)
-Ryan Lindgren (Boston)
-Jack Sadek (Minnesota)


-Mathew Robson (Toronto)*

Gopher Alums:


-Vinni Lettieri (New York Rangers)
-Justin Kloos (Minnesota)
-Hudson Fasching (Buffalo)


-Ryan Collins (Columbus)
-Jake Bischoff (Vegas)
-Michael Brodzinski (San Jose)


Last updated 7/13 with Chicago rosters

Saturday, June 24, 2017

BLOG: 2017 NHL Draft picks at Big Ten and Minnesota schools

2017 marked three straight NHL Drafts where two players with Big Ten ties were chosen in the first round. It's the first, however, with two different teams represented.

Minnesota's Casey Mittelstadt and Michigan's Josh Norris went Friday, leading a total of 17 Big Ten players from six different schools. Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin each had four drafted.

Mittelstadt's selection by Buffalo with the eighth overall pick tied Zach Werenski as the highest drafted Big Ten player since the conference began sponsoring men's hockey in 2013. Norris went 19th overall to San Jose, one of four teams to pick two Big Ten players.

2017 NHL Draft: 3 players with Gopher ties chosen during Day 2

Three more players with Gopher ties were selected on Day 2 of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Minnesota incoming freshman forward Scott Reedy, along with verbal commits Clayton Phillips and Sammy Walker, heard their names called Saturday, a day after incoming freshman Casey Mittelstadt became the eighth University of Minnesota player to be chosen in the top-10.

With four picks Minnesota is tied for the most selections among both fellow Big Ten and Minnesota schools. The total doubles 2016's draft picks (Ryan Lindgren and Rem Pitlick).

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 NHL Draft: Casey Mittelstadt taken 8th overall by Buffalo Sabres

University of Minnesota incoming freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt didn't have to wait long to hear his name called Friday night.

The Buffalo Sabres selected Mittelstadt in the first round with the eighth overall selection.

He's the first Gopher since Christian Isackson in 2010 to be chosen by the Sabres, who feature a new GM in former Michigan forward Jason Botterill and new head coach Phil Housley. Buffalo historically has been not afraid to spend high picks on Minnesota players, drafting Mike Ramsey (1979), Erik Rasmussen (1996), Keith Ballard (2002) and Thomas Vanek (2003) in the first round.

Mittelstadt, the 2017 Minnesota Mr. Hockey and a native of Eden Prairie, MN, was the first American and 2nd player with collegiate ties taken in the 2017 NHL Draft. Defenseman Cale Makar (UMass) went fourth overall to Colorado.

The 6'0", 194 lbs Mittelstadt became the first Minnesota-born player to be drafted in the top-10 since 2006 when Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo and Peter Mueller were all taken in the first eight picks. He's the eighth Gopher to go in the top-10 of the NHL Draft.

With Mittelstadt's selection, Minnesota snapped a five year drought - the longest in over 20 years - without a first round pick.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gopher Men's Hockey Changes Radio Stations

Minnesota men's hockey moves down the AM dial next season.

2017-18 Gopher games can primarily be heard locally on KTLK 1130 AM Twin Cities News Talk and 103.5 FM in a multi-year agreement, ending a partnership with AM station 1500 ESPN that stretched back to 2011. Head coach Don Lucia's weekly radio show will also be broadcast on 1130 AM.

The switch comes as part of an Athletic Department-wide move. All University of Minnesota radio broadcast rights are now under one corporate roof, joining Gopher football on local iHeartMedia stations. Games will be available online via the iHeartRadio app.

In addition to men's hockey, Minnesota men's and women's basketball also change stations. Men's basketball games will be split between KTLK and KFAN 100.3, which currently holds the radio rights to the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild and University of Minnesota football. Women's basketball games will be broadcast on Alt 93.3 FM.

All three teams previously were broadcast locally on 1500 ESPN. 

2018 WJC: Nate Knoepke, Ryan Lindgren and Casey Mittelstadt participating in US World Junior Summer Showcase

Minnesota incoming freshmen Casey Mittelstadt and Nate Knoepke will try to match sophomore defenseman Ryan Lindgren's accomplishment: Making an American U-20 World Juniors team.

All three will take their first step next month. The Gopher trio join 39 other players named Tuesday to the United States' 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. Among the under-20 group are 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and 4 goalies.

The event, formerly known as the National Junior Evaluation Camp, takes July 29-August 5th in Plymouth, Michigan and brings in three other top countries in Canada (2017 silver medalist), Finland (2016 gold medalist) and Sweden (fourth place each of the past three tournaments). Each of the countries will scrimmage against one another. Besides getting experience, coaches have an opportunity to decide who to take for December camps and eventually the 2018 WJC.

In the case of Team USA, players initially will be split into two teams before cuts are made in camp.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BLOG: On Phil Kessel's NHL playoff success

The Puck Dynasty podcast currently is on offseason hiatus so it's hard to have an extra mailbag question. Or any questions, for that matter. However, I've had a few people inquire about the below tweet and decided it'd be a good offseason excuse to dust this blog off and answer a couple questions.
Playing a major role on Pittsburgh's back-to-back championship teams, Phil Kessel became the first Minnesota alum to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup twice as a player.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sydney Baldwin and Cara Piazza named 2017-18 co-captains

Minnesota's leadership group next season will be headed up by seniors Sydney Baldwin and Cara Piazza.

Baldwin and Piazza Monday were named co-captains for 2017-18 by their teammates. They replace 2016-17 captain Lee Stecklein and alternates Dani Cameranesi and Kate Schipper, all of whom graduated.

It's the first time either player has worn a letter with the Gophers.

"I'm confident in their abilities to lead the team both on and off the ice. I'm not surprised that their teammates selected them as captains," head coach Brad Frost said in a statement. "They both are great players and great students, and they are tremendous representatives of our program. We are looking forward to another great year of Gopher women's hockey."

Baldwin, a defender from Minnetonka, MN, plays in all situations, heading up a pairing much of last year with freshman Patti Marshall. The 2014 Minnesota Ms. Hockey finished her junior season with 16 points (2G-14A) in all 39 games and actually enters 2017-18 as the team's returning scorer thanks in part to Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak making their respective countries' Olympic rosters. In her Gopher career she has 49 total points

Piazza, a forward from Darien, Illinois, was a consistent presence on Minnesota's second line last season when not battling injuries. Piazza had 14 points (6G-8A) in 33 games. Prior to that she had scored 11 goals as both a freshman and sophomore.

2017-18 marks the third time in four seasons the Gophers go with co-captains. Rachael Bona and Rachel Ramsey shared the captain's "C" in 2014-15. Stecklein and Hannah Brandt did the same the following year as Minnesota repeated as national champions.

Scott Bell hired as men's assistant coach

Minnesota has hired Pittsburgh Penguins scout Scott Bell as its new assistant coach.

Bell replaces Grant Potulny, who left in April to become Northern Michigan's head coach. Monday's announcement ends a search and interview process that attracted several of college hockey's top assistant candidates.

Coming off of Pittsburgh's second consecutive Stanley Cup, Bell spent the past five seasons in the Penguins organization. In that time Pittsburgh drafted Midwest collegians such as Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald, Teddy Blueger, Frederik Tiffels and Ryan Jones. Prior to that he was head coach at Hamline (St. Paul), helping turn around a downtrodden Pipers program with two MIAC championships in six seasons.

Bell, like Potulny and associate head coach Mike Guentzel, is a Gopher alum. The Inver Grove Heights, MN native played under Doug Woog from 1990-1995. He finished with 81 points in 146 games.

“I’m thrilled to be coming home to the University of Minnesota. This has always been a dream of mine, and people who know me know that I bleed Maroon & Gold,” Bell said in a statement. “I’ve been involved in hockey at pretty much every level, but this place has always had a special place in my heart, and I couldn’t be more excited to once again be a part of Gopher Hockey.”

Bell joins Guentzel and volunteer assistant coach Justin Johnson on head coach Don Lucia's staff.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Minnesota Releases Tentative 2017-18 Schedule & Thoughts

Start mapping out Minnesota's trek to make a seventh consecutive Frozen Four appearance.

Both the Gophers and WCHA released a composite 2017-18 women's hockey schedule on Thursday. The delay was due in part to teams needing to replace four games on the schedule after North Dakota suddenly dropped its women's hockey program in late March.

Each of the remaining seven WCHA teams will play 24 conference games (a home and away series against one another). In addition, Minnesota (26-8-5 in 2016-17) will face four non-conference foes - Hockey East teams Merrimack and Vermont, along with CHA teams Mercyhurst and Lindenwood - playing a total off 33 games.

Brad Frost's team begins the year hosting Merrimack (11-22-3 in 2016-17, 8th out of 9 teams) either September 29th or 30th.

2017-18 Minnesota Schedule (Tentative)

Note: The Gophers will play two games over a three-day weekend. Times and concrete dates will be announced later this summer.

9/24/17 (Sunday) - Korean National Team (Exhibition)
9/29-10/1/17 - Merrimack
10/6-10/8/17 - Ohio State*
10/13-10/15/17 - at Bemidji State*
10/20-10/22/17 - at Minnesota Duluth*
10/27-10/29/17 - Wisconsin*
11/3-11/5/17 - at Minnesota State*
11/10-11/12/17 - at Mercyhurst
11/17-11/19/17 - St. Cloud State*
11/24-11/26/17 - at Lindenwood
12/1-12/3/17 - Bemidji State*
12/8-12/10/17 - Minnesota Duluth*
1/5-1/7/18 - BYE
1/9/2018 (Tuesday) - St. Cloud State
1/12-1/14/18 - Vermont
1/19-1/21/18 - at Ohio State*
1/26-1/28/18 - Minnesota State*
2/2-2/4/18 - at St. Cloud State*
2/9-2/11/18 - BYE
2/16-2/18/18 - at Wisconsin*

2018 WCHA Tournament
2/23-2/25/2018 - WCHA Quarterfinals+
3/3/2018 - WCHA Final Face-Off Semifinals (Ridder Arena)
3/4/2018 - WCHA Final Face-Off Championship Game (Ridder Arena)

2018 NCAA Tournament
3/10-3/11/2018 - NCAA Quarterfinals+
3/16/2018 - Frozen Four Semifinals (Ridder Arena)
3/18/2018 - Frozen Four Championship Game (Ridder Arena)

*WCHA Conference Game
+Home ice at higher seed (In case of WCHA Tournament, #1 seed gets a bye to WCHA Final Face-Off.)