You might think that the Minnesota Golden Gophers might take a step back offensively after losing such prolific players from last season as Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri. And its true they may. But Minnesota returns a ton of scoring power in Big Ten Player of the Year Tyler Sheehy, they will get a full year out of sniper Tommy Novak, and the Gophers bring in a pair of highly touted offensive machines in Casey Mittelstadt and Scott Reedy who could make this forward group electric.
The biggest boost to the Gophers offense this season was the return of junior Tyler Sheehy to the team. Sheehy flirted with going pro after a season where he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, a First Team All-American, and a Hobey Baker Finalist after finishing eighth in the nation with 52 points. Sheehy was named the Captain of the Gophers in the offseason and will look to have another great season. He also could be a possibility to make the Us Olympic Team this February as well.
Playing alongside Sheehy on the Gophers top line will be senior Leon Bristedt. The Swede recorded 33 points a season ago and is a scoring threat whenever he gets the puck on his stick.
The other senior in the Gopher forward group will be center Mike Szmatula. The Northeastern transfer scored 25 points in 28 games for Minnesota a year ago. He missed several games with a knee injury and will look to come back at full strength this season. He was named an assistant captain in the off-season and will be one of the oldest players in college hockey this season at 25 years old.
The Gophers have a talented bunch of juniors besides Sheehy. Tommy Novak is another player who will return at full strength after missing a good portion of last season with a torn ACL. Novak is key to the Gophers power play and will be looked upon as one of the players to step up and fill the scoring void left behind by the graduated seniors.
Brent Gates, Jr is another player Minnesota needs to step up in 2017-18. He has offensive talent and showed in in flashes last season. If he can become a consistent scoring threat on Minnesota’s second or third line the Gophers could be a very dangerous team.
The other three junior forwards for the Gophers are more of the grinding fourth line type. Ryan Norman, Jack Ramsey and Darian Romanko are typical members of the “trench” line, the guys who get sent out to do the dirty work and shut down the oppositions scoring line. Ramsey and Romanko both will play large roles on the Gophers penalty kill and have great chemistry together. Norman is arguably the best scorer of the three but with the influx of offensive talent for Minnesota will find himself on the wing with the other two on the trench line more often than not this year.
The Gophers sophomore class is arguably the least dangerous of the four. But don’t tell that to Rem Pitlick. Pitlick scored 32 points a year ago in being named to the Big Ten All Freshman team. He is a scorer and is extremely dangerous with the puck. He will be moved around to find the right chemistry with him linemates, but will most likely either be on the wing with Novak and Sheehy, or with Casey Mittelstadt.
The other two sophomores have not and will not see much playing time. Joey Marooney played in seven games a year ago for Minnesota and will fight for time on the Gophers 4th line. Meanwhile Luke Notermann may not see the ice at all this season as he he dealing with an undisclosed issue. He played in just ten games a year ago for the Gophers.
Minnesota does bring in the most anticipated freshman class of forwards in some time this season. The hype begins with Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt. He was the 8th overall selection in the NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres this summer and is a goal scoring machine. He did not wait long to show off as he scored a goal and added three assists in the Gophers exhibition win over Alberta last Sunday. Minnesota hopes he can adapt to the college game quickly because he could be a very special talent.
Another freshman Minnesota has high hopes for is Scott Reedy. The fourth round pick of the San Jose Sharks this summer, Reedy played for the US U-18 development team the last two seasons. Reedy can be an offensive talent and a bigger forward who is not afraid to get in front of the net and get some dirty goals.
Brannon McMannus is a California native who played for Shattuck St Mary’s in high school. He is a smaller faster forward who can be creative with the puck. He will most likely be fighting for minutes on the Gophers third line.
The last freshman is Edina’s Cullen Munson. He comes to Minnesota from the Janesville Jets of the NAHL, and will be a player who will most likely not play most nights, but will fight for some playing time on the Gophers fourth line.
Minnesota brings a lot of firepower to the ice up front. If Novak can show is is back to 100% and can center players such as Sheehy and Bristedt, and if Mittelstadt can adapt to the college game quickly, this could be an even more potent offense than a year ago. The Gophers should also have a lot of power play success with these players. If you can dominate the special teams play, then good things will happen. And with this group, assuming they can all stay healthy...good things just might happen.