After teammates slapped their sticks on the ice in celebration and coach Bob Motzko twirled an index finger, Brock Faber took a victory lap around Ridder Arena before the Gophers men’s hockey team began practice Wednesday.
Less than an hour earlier, Faber’s name had been called by the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL draft. The freshman defenseman from Maple Grove became the first Minnesotan drafted this year, going in the second round, No. 45 overall.
“It’s been a crazy road, but obviously I’m super grateful for this opportunity,’’ said Faber, who spent the past two years with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Mich. “Words can’t describe how excited I am.’’
Faber is hopeful that Wednesday’s development is just another step in a long hockey career.
“Getting drafted is a huge accomplishment and something I’ve dreamed of having happen to me for a long time,’’ he said. “This is just the start, there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish. Being at the University of Minnesota, a national championship is one of them. That’s what I want to achieve, and I think we have a great group to do it. … Long-term goals: Every kid that plays hockey wants to win a Stanley Cup.’’
After Faber’s selection, three more Minnesotans were picked in the third round. Jake Boltmann, a defenseman from Edina committed to the Gophers, went at No. 80 to the Calgary Flames. Defenseman Wyatt Kaiser, a Minnesota Duluth freshman and Andover High graduate, went at No. 81 to Chicago. And Jackson Hallum, a St. Thomas Academy forward committed to Michigan, went at No. 91 to Vegas. Boltmann and Hallum will play in the USHL in the 2020-21 season for Lincoln and Green Bay, respectively.
The Montreal Canadiens selected two Minnesotans — and future Minnesota Duluth players — in the fourth round. Forward Jack Smith from St. Cloud Cathedral who’ll play for Sioux Falls of the USHL this season, went at No. 102 overall. Seven picks later, the Habs took forward Blake Biondi, who earned Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey award last season and is a Bulldogs freshman.
Jackson Kunz, a forward at Shattuck-St. Mary’s who is committed to North Dakota, went 113th overall to Vancouver. Kunz’s Shattuck teammate, center Artem Shlaine, a Russian from Moscow, went in the fifth round (No. 130 overall) to New Jersey.
Eden Prairie defenseman Mason Langenbrunner, whose father, Jamie, was a longtime NHL standout, also went in the fifth round (151st overall) to Boston. Blake forward Joe Miller, a Gophers recruit who’ll play for Chicago of the USHL this season, went in the sixth round (180th) to Toronto.
A notable Minnesotan who wasn’t drafted is Rosemount defenseman Jake Ratzlaff, who also is a standout linebacker. He verbally committed to play hockey for the Gophers but is considering playing football at either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Ratzlaff was the 90th-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting Service’s final ratings.