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Minnesota Hockey: Quartet of Gophers Sign Professional Contracts

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Four seniors are headed to the professional ranks

Justin Kloos is one of three Gophers headed to the AHL for the end of the season.
gophersports.com

Note: This article has been edited to note that Taylor Cammarata has also signed a pro deal.

Three Four senior Gopher hockey players signed professional contracts this week after Minnesota’s season ended in a 3-2 loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday. Vinni Lettieri, Jake Bischoff, and Justin Kloos all have signed entry level two-year contracts with NHL organizations, while Taylor Cammarata has signed an amateur tryout contract. Lettieri signed with the New York Rangers, Bischoff with the New York Islanders, Cammarata with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers , the Islanders AHL affiliate, and Kloos with the Minnesota Wild,. The three four will all play in the AHL for the remainder of this season on amateur tryout deals.

Vinni Lettieri had a great senior season for the Gophers recording 37 points in 38 games.

His 19 goals were a career high. He now joins former Gopher teammate Brady Skeji in the Rangers organization. Lettieri will report to the Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers AHL affiliate for the last eight games of the season. He will wear #18 for the Wolfpack and is expected to be in uniform for the Wolfpack’s next game against the Hershey Bears on Friday night.

Lettieri gave an interview to NYRangers.com on Tuesday. "It's pretty surreal," Lettieri told NYRangers.com. "I've worked so hard my whole life and it's been my dream to sign a pro contract and play in the NHL and the day has finally come when I've signed." Vinni was a free agent and could have signed with any club. So why did he decide to sign with the Rangers? "There's opportunity for me here," he said. "That's the biggest thing. After talking it over with my family, my agent … I feel this would be the best opportunity for me. The way [the Rangers] play fits me too. I made the right choice and I'm really excited."

Jake Bischoff recorded a career high 32 points in 38 games as a senior for the Gophers. He led all Big Ten defensemen in scoring and was named the 2017 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Though Bischoff is a free agent, he is signing with the NHL team that originally drafted him. The Islanders took Bischoff in the seventh round (185th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Bischoff will report to the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He will wear #51 for the Sound Tigers and will hopefully be in roster on Friday when Bridgeport takes on Leigh Valley.

Bischoff put out a statement through the U. “I wouldn’t trade the last four years for anything, and I want to thank everyone for supporting us. This will always be a special place for me, and I’m incredibly grateful for everything the University of Minnesota has given me,” Bischoff said in a statement. “At the same time, I’m excited take the next step in my career by joining the New York Islanders organization.”

Justin Kloos was a two year captain for the Gophers and finished his career with 150 points, good enough for 28th all-time. He scored 43 points for Minnesota this season.

Kloos had several offers after the season ended and chose the Wild over the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames due to the Wild’s lack of center depth according to Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press.

Kloos will report to Iowa for the remainder of the season where he will join former Gopher teammates Mike Reilly and Nick Seeler, former Big Ten rival Luke Kunin and Pee Wee teammate Mario Lucia. Kloos was not given a number as of Wednesday night, but is expected to make his Iowa Wild debut either Friday night against Chicago or Sunday against Cleveland. Kloos gave an eight minute interview to the Wild Media network’s Kevin Falness that you can listen to at this link:

***EDIT***

Make that a quartet of Gophers as it was announced Thursday afternoon that Taylor Cammarata has also signed an amateur tryout contract with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers joining Jake Bischoff. Cammarata was the Islanders third round pick in 2013. His contract appears to be an amateur try out only, meaning he will be signed for the rest of this season, but is not signed for the next two seasons as the other three Gophers are.

All three four Gophers who have signed contracts have been seniors and obviously have no remaining eligibility. One name to watch in the near future who could leave the Gophers early may be junior defenseman Ryan Collins. Collins was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round in 2014 and could become a free agent if he does not sign with Columbus by July 1st. Other Gophers who can become NHL Free Agents if their drafting team does not sign them by July 1 include Jack Glover (Winnipeg Jets) and Steve Johnson (Los Angeles Kings).

One other potential free agent to watch would be Sophomore Tyler Sheehy. Sheehy is coming off of a breakout season where he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. It would be a huge blow to the Gophers to lose Sheehy to the pro ranks, but his stock may never be higher this off-season.