Gophers plan to hold off on NHL dreams

Sophomore Jordan Schroeder is expected to be a first round pick in the NHL draft this weekend.

Minnesota menâÄôs hockey will see sophomore Jordan Schroeder as well as four incoming freshmen be early picks in the National Hockey League Draft on June 26 and 27, in the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. Schroeder is expected to be a sure first-round pick. Incoming freshmen Nick Leddy , Zach Budish , Josh Birkholz and Seth Hegelson are all expected to go in the second and third rounds. Despite the high draft expectations this year, the athletes all plan to fulfill their original dreams of playing for the Gophers. âÄúPlaying in Minnesota, wearing the âÄòM,âÄô there is a lot of pride, and you kind of grow up dreaming to play there,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúItâÄôs a little bit of a dream of mine coming true, so IâÄôm definitely honored to wear it.âÄù The incoming freshmen, all having grown up in Minnesota, shared this same mentality about playing for the Gophers. While they all mentioned wanting to play in the NHL one day, they are more focused on what it will be like to play for Minnesota next season. âÄúItâÄôs going to be great to step on the ice and see all the fans and all the people that come and watch,âÄù Hegelson said. âÄúItâÄôs all about the school, to play for my teammates, play for the Gophers.âÄù Head coach Don Lucia sees playing in the NHL as a longer-term goal for his younger athletes. âÄúThese kids have potential, and they come to college to develop that potential,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe hardest part is just keeping focused on where theyâÄôre at today and not where theyâÄôre going to be tomorrow.âÄù Hegelson said he plans to play hard for Minnesota, with thoughts of a professional career in background. âÄúObviously IâÄôm going to be working hard to get there, but my first priority will be Minnesota.âÄù Birkholz described playing in the NHL as an entirely different chapter of his life. He said he is trying to focus on playing his best hockey and enjoying his time at Minnesota. Lucia said the athletes look forward to college hockey because of the pride involved in the program and the success theyâÄôve had over the years. âÄúThey want to be a part of that tradition. They want to add to the tradition and hopefully hang some banners,âÄù Lucia said. Having just finished his freshman year, Schroeder has already experienced much of the tradition that the incoming freshmen are looking forward to experiencing. âÄúBeing at home in Minnesota and getting to know everyone was definitely a big part of my freshman year,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúThis year I want to come back and help the team have a better season.âÄù Lucia said every indication about Schroeder has him coming back to Minnesota to play his sophomore year. âÄúJordan had an outstanding year, heâÄôs very mature and he was ready to step in with his background,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúHe was obviously ready to be a first-line player, and heâÄôs certainly going to be one of our key guys this upcoming season.âÄù Assistant coach John Hill also said he expects Schroeder back, but expressed that it wasnâÄôt a guarantee. âÄúWeâÄôll know more next week when we know who has drafted him and if there was any conversation about signing a contract with them,âÄù Hill said. Hill described Schroeder as an elite hockey player in terms of his work ethic and said Schroeder gave them a true number one line, playing alongside Ryan Stoa and Jay Barriball . âÄúMy plan is to come back next year, but you never know,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúI have to wait and see who I get drafted by and what the team wants and I have to make a decision as well.âÄù Lucia and Hill agreed that it is uncertain how long players will stay with the program, so the coaches must take the draft into consideration when looking forward to the upcoming season. âÄúAll we do is try to make sure that weâÄôre aware down the road of how this might impact us,âÄù Hill said. âÄúItâÄôs like juggling balls as to when kids are going to leave and sign.âÄù While some athletes have left the hockey program earlier than expected, Hill said it is still exciting to coach players off to their professional careers. âÄúWeâÄôre excited for the players because we know that itâÄôs a big moment in their life and obviously for their sake you hope that they go,âÄù Hill said.