The 2012 NHL Draft just wrapped up in Pittsburgh and although it was a quiet draft for Minnesotans compared to years past, three players with University of Minnesota hockey connections heard their names called.
Friday night saw defenseman Brady Skjei (pronounced "Shay) become the first Gopher since Nick Bjugstad in 2010 and 11th in 10 years to be drafted in the first round when the New York Rangers took him 28th. Skjei, a Lakeville native, has spent the last two years with the United States National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he has played against college, USHL and international competition. He will be a freshman in the fall and is adding to a Minnesota blue line that returns everyone from last year's Frozen Four semifinal team.
It's the second straight year New York has taken a player from the USNTDP who was heading to a WCHA school. Last year's pick, J.T. Miller, ended up reneging on a commitment to North Dakota to play for Plymouth in the OHL.
Saturday morning was quiet until the seventh and final round when Jake Bischoff and Louie Nanne were selected within a few picks of each other. Bischoff, a defenseman from Grand Rapids, was drafted 215th by the New York Islanders and follows in the footsteps of Kyle Okposo (8th overall in 2006) and Aaron Ness (40th overall in 2008). It's interesting because Islanders GM Garth Snow once lambasted Gopher head coach Don Lucia for how he developed players with Okposo but he continues to pick Minnesota recruits.
Bischoff is scheduled to play for the Gophers in 2013 or 2014 and for now will play for Omaha of the USHL.
Nanne, meanwhile, had a dream come true as the hometown Minnesota Wild spent their final pick on the Edina native. The grandson of Minnesota hockey great Lou Nanne is a left winger from Edina who put up 20 points (12G-8A) in 24 games last season.
Joining the University of Minnesota in 2013, Nanne joins a growing of list of State of Hockey players picked by the NHL team. He is the third player with Gopher ties drafted by current General Manager Chuck Fletcher following Nick Leddy and Erik Haula and the second Minnesotan drafted by the Wild in 2012, following Fairbault native John Draeger.