Lucia says departure of Chucko not unexpected

Coach Don Lucia said he planned on losing three forwards for next season.

by Chris Lempesis

Minnesota men’s hockey coach Don Lucia said he figured his team would lose junior forwards Danny Irmen and Ryan Potulny and possibly one other player early to the NHL during the Gophers’ off-season.

It didn’t take long for that number to be met, as less than one month after the season ended Minnesota now is at three early departures with Kris Chucko signing a three-year, $900,000 contract with the Calgary Flames.

“Kris is a great kid,” Lucia said Monday. “I wish him nothing but the best. I think he would have really come into his own next year. I think he certainly had a good chance to be a leader on our team next year.”

Lucia was a little less pleased with how Calgary handled the situation this season, however.

“I wasn’t upset that they signed him,” he said. “I was just upset that they were phoning him during the course of the season, trying to get him to leave our program in the middle of the year and I just think that’s not the right thing to do.

“Kris has got too much integrity and character to walk out on the team in the middle of the year. The bottom line was that Calgary is not a fan of college and they wanted him in a situation where he plays more games.”

Lucia also said Chucko – who he said would have been a “good bet” to wear a letter next season – is not yet ready for the NHL, but added, “I think what (Calgary’s) intent is is to put him in the American League and let him develop there and that’s their choice.”

The departures of Chucko, Irmen and Potulny, along with the graduation of Gino Guyer and Andy Sertich, leave the Gophers with 13 forwards for next season – provided senior Tyler Hirsch returns from his medical redshirt (personal reasons).

That number is a little slim and could become dangerously thin if there are any additional departures.

As of now, Lucia said he’s not nervous about anyone else leaving.

“If somebody else elects to turn pro, again, there’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the times we’re in. I really don’t think anyone else is in a position to leave – or at least being ready to leave.”