Leddy and Schroeder drafted in first round

Five Gophers were selected in last week’s NHL Draft.

Leddy and Schroeder drafted in first round

Paul Bangasser

More University of Minnesota hockey players saw their dreams of becoming professionals become a closer reality this weekend. Five Gophers were drafted in the 2009 NHL Draft last Friday and Saturday, including two players drafted in the first round. Incoming freshman Nick Leddy was taken 16th overall by the Minnesota Wild. A few picks later, the Vancouver Canucks landed sophomore Jordan Schroeder with the 22nd pick. âÄúYou look forward to this your whole life,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúGetting an opportunity to go up on stage is a good feeling.âÄù On the second day of the draft, incoming freshmen Zach Budish (Edina, Minn.), Josh Birkholz (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Seth Helgeson (Faribault, Minn.) were drafted. All four of the incoming freshmen draftees, including Leddy, have signed letters of intent to play for the Gophers in 2009. Leddy (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was named Mr. Hockey in 2009 , helping lead Eden Prairie High School to a Class AA championship . The defenseman said he was speechless when he saw his draft position and is thrilled to be drafted by the hometown team. âÄúOf course theyâÄôre my favorite team because IâÄôm from Minnesota,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs an unbelieivealbe feeling to be drafted by [the Wild].âÄù Leddy said he will try to jump to the professionals as soon as heâÄôs ready. While that could be as early as 2010, Gophers head coach Don Lucia said he thinks Leddy will need to become stronger to play in the NHL. âÄúHeâÄôs got potential, but heâÄôs got to get stronger physically, and heâÄôs got to prove to be a player at our level before heâÄôs ready for the next level,âÄù Lucia said. The coaches donâÄôt do anything to convince the players to stay at the college level, Lucia said. He said he hopes the players stay to receive an education but understands that he canâÄôt stop them when theyâÄôre ready for the next step. âÄúWhen youâÄôre ready to play in the NHL, IâÄôll drive you to the airport so you can get on the plane and go,âÄù he said. Looking toward next season, Lucia said the Gophers will try to use some of the incoming freshmen to fill the void left by players such as forward Ryan Stoa and Justin Bostrom leaving. The team will also turn to Schroeder as a primary offensive target, he said. Schroeder, who was named National Rookie of the Year by College Hockey News and Inside College Hockey , had to wait until after his freshman year to be drafted. Players must be 18 before Sept. 15 of the draft year to be drafted. Schroeder said he took summer classes to accelerate his schooling to play a year in college to help show NHL teams that heâÄôs ready for the professional level. âÄúPlaying college a year early and being able to prove that I could play in college had a big impact,âÄù he said. âÄúIt gives teams a good sense of how ready I am.âÄù Schroeder said he is glad to be drafted by the Canucks because they always have a team pushing to make the playoffs. With the most recent draft class, Minnesota has now had 23 players drafted in the NHL draft in the past four seasons. Lucia said players wanting to play for the NHL or the American Hockey League is something he has to deal with year after year, but he said college hockey is a good way to help them prepare for the next step. âÄúYou have to be ready physically and you have to be ready mentally, because once you leave here itâÄôs strictly business,âÄù Lucia said.