Teammate: Kessel to Gophers is very likely

Top recruit Phil Kessel will announce his school of choice at 1:15 p.m. Friday.

Ben Goessling

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team won’t know officially until Friday if U.S. National Under-18 Team standout Phil Kessel will verbally commit to the Gophers.

But according to one of Kessel’s teammates, he’s as good as headed to Minneapolis.

The teammate said Wednesday that he “would be shocked if Phil went anywhere else at this point” and believes Kessel will choose the Gophers in a news conference scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Friday.

“He loves the coaches, he’s got friends going to the team and he loves the system,” said the teammate, who wished to remain anonymous. “He’s pretty much going to Minnesota.”

Kessel, a Verona, Wis., native, is reportedly considering Minnesota and Wisconsin as his announcement nears.

He will likely inform Minnesota coach Don Lucia and Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves of his decision Thursday.

A news conference was originally scheduled for this afternoon, but it was pushed back after Kessel came down with the flu.

The forward’s recruitment, which is winding down after nearly four months of intense speculation, has left Kessel to choose between his hometown Badgers and Minnesota – where current teammates Ryan Stoa and Jeff Frazee will play next fall.

There is also the matter of a budding rivalry with U.S. Under-18 Team forward and Badgers recruit Jack Skille, with whom Kessel is said to have an icy relationship.

Kessel, whom most scouting services project to be the top pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, would be the sixth player from the U.S. National Team Development Program to join one of Minnesota’s next two recruiting classes.

Minnesota has received letters of intent from Stoa and Frazee and also verbal commitments from forwards Peter Mueller and Michael Carman and defenseman Erik Johnson for the 2006-07 season.