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Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud were standouts with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

They were linemates last season and scored 20-plus goals apiece all the while rooming together. The 18-year-old forwards also picked the same college, committing to the Gophers.

But that's not all the two could have in common.

Both are projected to be first-round picks when the NHL draft begins Thursday in Montreal, with Cooley a potential top-three selection.

"It's definitely extremely special," Cooley said. "We're really good friends, linemates also. So, I want to see him go as high as possible also. He's a great kid and having a chance to hopefully be two first-round picks is pretty special."

Back to the beginning

Despite their similarities, Cooley and Snuggerud had different starts with hockey.

From Pittsburgh, Cooley was around 6 years old when he fell in love with the sport. He was a fan of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals but also watched the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane. Cooley hoped to make the NHL and after he wrapped up the 2020-21 season, it dawned on him his dream could become a reality.

Meanwhile, Snuggerud grew up in Chaska and was in skates at the age of 2.

His dad, Dave, and grandfather, James Westby, are former Gophers who competed in the Olympics. Dave also played four seasons in the NHL, and when he had hockey on, whether it was a college game or the Wild, his son joined him.

"I'd get up and go, but he continued to watch it," Dave said.

Cooley and Snuggerud ended up on the same team two years ago with the National Team Development Program under-17 squad, but not until last season when they graduated to the under-18 lineup did they skate together consistently in what amounted to a showcase of two of hockey's most talented up-and-comers.

"Being able to play with him was super special," Snuggerud said.

Dynamic duo

In 51 games with the NTDP, Cooley racked up 27 goals and 48 assists for 75 points — the second most on the team — and his 1.47 points-per-game clip led the way.

The 5-10, 180-pound center shined at the Under-18 Men's World Championship, getting named the tournament's top forward, and Cooley was the youngest player named to Team USA's 2022 World Junior Championship roster before COVID-19 canceled the tournament last December.

Touted for his offensive skills and mobility, Cooley is ranked the second-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Some combination of him, Canadian Shane Wright and Slovakia's Juraj Slafkovsky is expected to go first through third in the draft. Host Montreal holds the No. 1 pick, with New Jersey second and then Arizona.

"He's a gamebreaker," Greg Rajanen, a U.S. Midwest scout for NHL Central Scouting, said about Cooley. "He makes players around him better. [He's] an elite skater, shifty and elusive with the puck, and he gets to top speed in a hurry."

As for Snuggerud, he finished with 24 goals, 39 assists and 63 points in 59 games.

The righthanded winger had two hat tricks in the 2021 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament, and like Cooley, Snuggerud was invited to Team USA's evaluation camp later this month for the World Juniors, which rescheduled the 2022 tournament for August ahead of the 2023 rendition kicking off in December.

A versatile two-way player who can handle the physical areas on the ice, the 6-1, 188-pound Snuggerud could hear his name called in the middle of the first round; NHL Central Scouting had him 11th among North American skaters.

"Has a high hockey IQ," Rajanen said. "Just a real smart player [with] good vision finding open teammates."

Minnesota connection

While Cooley wanted to grow his two-way game last season, Snuggerud worked on his skating and improving his speed.

When they joined forces, Snuggerud felt their smarts enabled them to create plays.

"We have a lot of good chemistry," Cooley said. "He's a player that's a real powerful forward who can score from basically anywhere. He sees the ice really well, and I think we had a good connection and we produced really well together."

And they could remain linemates later this year after Cooley announced in February he was committing to the Gophers like Snuggerud already had.

"I was super pumped when he decided to come to Minnesota," Snuggerud said.

But the two will no longer be roommates.

Their NTDP teammate and Mahtomedi's Ryan Chesley, who's also draft eligible, is paired up with Cooley instead.

"They've been having really good teams lately," Cooley said of the Gophers. "Good fan base, too. Especially producing a lot of NHL players, too, that was another reason I wanted to go there, and I want to add to that list. So, definitely a special place to me, and I'm looking forward to coming there."

Teammates and friends

During the season, Cooley and Snuggerud didn't discuss the draft much.

Now, with the day approaching, they have talked about it more and are excited.

"Once I get picked, I'm a part of a depth chart and I need to make that team," Snuggerud said. "But, obviously, I'm proud of my teammates and who I have become as a player. Especially Logan. I'm so proud of him."

They are teammates on the same journey, but they are also more than that.

"We're best friends still," Cooley said. "Obviously, he's a really good player but even a better person off the ice."