The NCAA Frozen Four is almost three weeks in our rear-view mirror, and college hockey has turned to its offseason business. With that comes some high-end players leaving early for professional hockey.
For the five Minnesota teams, the early departures so far have hit some teams hard, some not at all. Here’s where they stand:
Shortly after winning their second consecutive national championship with a lineup heavy with non-seniors, the Bulldogs lost junior forward Riley Tufte (nine goals, 10 assists, 19 points), a first-round draft pick, to the Dallas Stars and sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson (6-21-27), a fourth-round pick, to the Los Angeles Kings.
The good news for coach Scott Sandelin and UMD as they try to become the first team to win three NCAA titles in a row since Michigan from 1951-53: That might be it for early departures.
Last week, All-America goalie Hunter Shepard, who has backstopped the Bulldogs to the back-to-back NCAA titles, announced he will return for his senior season. Junior defenseman Nick Wolff (5-13-18) also said he’s staying. And on Monday, sophomore defenseman and Winnipeg Jets second-round pick Dylan Samberg (7-12-19) told the Duluth News-Tribune that he will return to the team next season. Sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich (3-26-29), a St. Louis second-round pick, hasn’t announced his intentions.
The Gophers suffered two big early departures shortly following their Big Ten semifinal ouster against Notre Dame. Junior forward Rem Pitlick, who led the team with 45 points on 21 goals and 24 assists, signed with the Nashville, which picked him in the third round in 2016. Junior goalie Mat Robson (14-12-4, 2.78 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) signed a free-agent contract with the Wild.
With nine seniors, including standouts Tyler Sheehy and Brent Gates Jr., also exhausting their eligibility, coach Bob Motzko’s team will rely on youth next season.
Coach Mike Hastings and his Mavericks received good news shortly after their NCAA tournament loss to Providence when junior center Marc Michaelis, the team’s leading scorer (19-23-42), indicated he would return for his senior season rather than sign with an NHL team as a free agent. In addition, sophomore defenseman Connor Mackey (7-18-25) plans to return.
St. Cloud State
The Huskies already were going to suffer big losses with seniors Jimmy Schuldt (a first-team All-America and Hobey Baker Award finalist), Patrick Newell (first-team All-America) and Robby Jackson (121 career points). But shortly after St. Cloud State’s first-round NCAA tournament loss, junior forward and first-round pick Ryan Poehling (8-23-31) signed with the Montreal Canadiens and sophomore second-team All-America forward Blake Lizotte (14-28-42) signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
St. Cloud State received good news when junior defenseman Jack Ahcan, a second-team All-America, announced he would return for his senior season.
The Beavers haven’t lost any players to pro hockey and have four of their top five scorers, plus top goalie Zach Driscoll, in line to return next season.