Wheeler leaves school in hopes of pro career

Blake Wheeler, the Gophers point leader last season, has ended his career at Minnesota.

Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota men’s hockey team announced today that sophomore forward Blake Wheeler has ended his career at the University to pursue a career in the professional hockey.

In a Gophers press release, the team announced that this year’s team points leader will have 30 days to reach an agreement with the Phoenix Coyotes, the team that drafted Wheeler fifth overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

If no agreement is made, the Plymouth native will become a free agent.

Wheeler is the third Gophers hockey player this year to leave school before graduating. Sophomore forward Kyle Okposo left in January for the New York Islanders and junior Jeff Frazee (New Jersey) departed soon after the Gophers loss to Boston College in the NCAA tournament.

In three years with Minnesota, Wheeler put up 96 career points (42 goals and 54 assists).

“Blake is an outstanding student, person and hockey player,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “He was a leader on our team both on and off the ice and we will certainly miss Blake’s contribution to the program. We are excited for the future in front of him and there is no question that he will have a long career in the NHL.”

Including Wheeler, 10 men’s hockey players have left school early for professional hockey since the conclusion of the 2005-2006 season.

Wisconsin’s Kyle Turris and Michigan’s Chad Kolarik and Hobey Baker Award winner Kevin Porter have all also signed with the Coyotes recently.

What effect their signings will have on Wheeler’s deal is unknown?