It’s the end of an era for the University of Minnesota, as head coach Don Lucia has stepped down after 19 years with the program. Those years included back-to-back National Championships in 2002 and 2003, and guiding a long pipeline of talent to professional hockey. Superstar talents like Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel played under Lucia during their time at Minnesota, and most recently top prospect Casey Mittelstadt has taken huge strides under his guidance.
Though obviously the program will continue without Lucia, it is interesting to watch what Mittelstadt does this summer. The Buffalo Sabres have already reached out about potentially signing the 19-year old phenom, and the departure of the legendary coach could impact his decision. If Mittelstadt feels ready for professional hockey, perhaps this is the last straw that pushes him to sign his entry-level deal and join Jack Eichel in Buffalo next season. Either way, this will be a huge change for the Golden Gophers, who were the highest ranked team not to make it into the NCAA tournament this season.
- Another one of those changes could be in the form of Ryan Lindgren, who according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post is considering turning pro now that the Minnesota season is over. Lindgren was acquired by the New York Rangers as part of the Rick Nash trade earlier this year, but was always expected to return to Minnesota for another year. Perhaps the depature of Lucia has affected those plans, though Brooks is clear to point out that the defenseman is just weighing his options at this point. If the Rangers can coax Lindgren out of college, he would be another solid addition to a young prospect group that is quickly positioning New York for future success.
- The Vancouver Canucks have been mining the NCAA ranks for talent recently, and Rick Dhaliwal of News 1130 reports they have their eyes on two more players. Brady Keeper from the University of Maine and Colton Poolman from the University of North Dakota are both expected to take part in Vancouver’s development camp this summer according to Dhaliwal. The defensemen are both undrafted and can still return to school if they can’t find a professional contract this offseason. The college ranks are giving more and more talent to the NHL every season, and players like Keeper and Poolman could be diamonds in the rough.