Kessel signs letter of intent to play for Gophers

Phil Kessel, the U.S. National Under-18 Team forward whom many project to be the top pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, signed a letter of intent with Minnesota’s men’s hockey team Wednesday.

Kessel, a Verona, Wis., native, chose Minnesota over his hometown Wisconsin Badgers on March 4. He also considered Michigan, Boston University and Boston College. His signing puts the final stamp on a long and much-publicized recruiting process.

The 5-foot-11-inch forward leads the Under-18 team in goals (52) and points (82).

Kessel was selected for the U.S. team for the IIHF 2005 World Junior Hockey Championships in December in Grand Forks, N.D., and is currently competing in the World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic.