The Minnesota Gopher Hockey team lost its first player with remaining eligibility to professional hockey on Wednesday when junior defenseman Ryan Collins signed a three year entry level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Collins will report to the Blue Jacket’s AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters for the remainder of the season.
Collins was the second round draft pick of the Blue Jackets in 2014. He leaves the Gophers after three seasons where he recorded four goals and 18 assists for 22 points with 77 penalty minutes and a cumulative +15 plus/minus rating in 98 career games. Collins had been much maligned for some of his defensive play in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but had a good junior season. He would have been expected to play every game on one of the top two defensive pairs in his senior season for the Gophers.
The loss of Collins will be noticeable for Minnesota, but the Gophers are still in a relatively decent point on the blue line. Minnesota will return five defensemen who saw action this season in Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Zulsdorf, Steve Johnson, Jack Sadek and Jack Glover. Minnesota will also get the services of transfer Tyler Nanne who will make his Gopher debut after sitting out the 2016-17 season as a transfer. He also missed the 2015-16 season as an Ohio State Buckeye after being diagnosed with Myocarditis, a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle.. Minnesota will add at least one freshman in Nate Knoepke who played with the US Development Team this season. Sam Rossini is another Gopher defensive commit who could join the team for next season, or may still play one more year in the USHL.