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Top three NHL draft pick, Logan Cooley, will return to the Gophers for sophomore season

As a freshman, he led the Gophers in every single offensive metric and is ready to complete some unfinished business, specifically winning a national championship.
Image by Photo courtesy of Gopher Athletics
Logan Cooley during the Gophers’ game against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, March 18 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Gopher hockey leading offensive powerhouse and soon-to-be second-year player, Logan Cooley, announced Friday morning he will stay on for another year skating at Mariucci Arena.

Following Cooley’s commitment to Gopher Hockey next season, on Saturday evening fifth-year forward Bryce Brodzinski confirmed he was back along with rising fourth-years Mike Koster, Mason Nevers and Carl Fish. Before Cooley’s decision, earlier in the week 2022-23 Gopher hockey assistant captain Jaxon Nelson and starting goalie Justen Close also announced they would return.

The two fifth-year moves of Nelson and Close placed precedent for the biggest remaining piece of their offseason puzzle, Cooley, to come back in an effort to rebound from a heartbreaking end to their previous season. With Cooley back, along with the experience of the returning upperclassmen, this team is destined for another dominant year on the ice.

“After losing that game I didn’t want to think about hockey, it just made me mad,” said Cooley at a virtual press conference Saturday, whose main reason for returning was to win a national championship for the Minnesota program. “I haven’t really won that much either, losing the U18 NTDP Gold Medal Game and obviously the World Juniors.”

The Pittsburgh product and top three 2022 NHL draft pick, Cooley, announced Friday morning that he would return for his sophomore season on a joint Instagram post with fellow first-line returnee, Jimmy Snuggerud.

In the post, Snuggerud texted, “Yo cools, you coming back?” and Cooley replied “absolutely.” 

Cooley said he is excited to continue to partner with Dinkytown Athletes, who engineered the post. Dinkytown Athletes is a popular NIL (name, image and likeness) organization used by athletes on campus.

“To hear about the kind of stuff the football guys are getting, hockey is only going to continue to grow with that and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Cooley said. “It’s awesome.”

His $950,000 yearly rookie NHL deal will be put on hold, but for a player like Cooley that’s no problem with many NIL suitors and current affiliations including his huge partnership with Chipotle, which grants him a free meal a day at a convenient location nearby at Stadium Village. 

“We were so fortunate that Logan came with us, and we’re extremely excited that he’s coming back one more year,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko told the StarTribune Friday. “It’s a terrific decision and one that’s going to benefit him in the long run and benefit our program, no question. It’s great for both Logan and Jimmy to continue their development.”

Cooley played in 39 of Minnesota’s 40 games last season, only missing one due to a suspension off of a cross-check on Michigan’s Eric Ciccolini during a 5-2 win in November at Ann Arbor. He totaled 22 goals and 38 assists on the season, including a game-winning goal in a critical game on Jan. 8 against then No. 4 St. Cloud State, with 18.8 seconds left in overtime.

The recently turned 19-year-old also went on an impressive 16-game run of notching a point, the longest streak out of any Division I NCAA hockey player. The most notable moment during that stretch was when Cooley became the first Big Ten player in 2022-23 with a five-point performance (goal and four assists) in the second period at Penn State on Feb. 17. That run ended in the national championship overtime loss to the Quinnipiac Bobcats following a stellar postseason performance totaling six goals and six assists.

Another major factor that possibly prompted Cooley to return was the ongoing turmoil inside the professional organization that drafted him last July. The Arizona Coyotes recently had their plans for a brand new ice arena rejected by the city of Tempe and are a popular team to relocate to cities such as Houston, Kansas City and Milwaukee.

“I know the NHL will do things the right way and whether that’s Arizona … whether if it’s Houston, wherever it is they’re all great spots to play,” Cooley, who noted that he was leaning on towards entering the NHL if a successful stadium deal was set in stone, said. 

Without a new stadium, the Coyotes will remain at the minuscule 5,000 capacity Mullett Arena hosted by Arizona State University. Coupling this with the fact the Coyotes are not likely to win anytime soon, it makes sense for the top American prospect in his draft class to stay in school for a little longer before entering the behemoth business of professional sports.

Cooley helped the U.S. World Juniors teams in 2022 and 2023 bringing home a bronze medal from Halifax, Canada in early January, scoring the first goal of the third-place game against Sweden off a no-look feed from Snuggerud. 

“He’s the best player in college hockey,” Quinnipiac’s head coach and Cooley’s former head coach in the World Juniors, Rand Pecknold, told media on April 7, the day before he defeated the Gophers in Tampa, Florida.

This offseason, Cooley is training in his hometown right now with current professionals hailing from the Pittsburgh area such as J.T. Miller, Vincent Trocheck and John Gibson, utilizing a custom workout program sent directly to him from the Coyotes. 

The term Cooley and Snuggerud said in their joint Instagram post on Friday was “unfinished business.” 

“I still feel like I have room to grow and I want to accomplish some things in college hockey and after I think I’ll be more prepared to make the jump,” Cooley said.

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