The 2021 NHL Draft kicks off Friday night from Columbus, Ohio with the first round while rounds two through seven will occur on Saturday. The Minnesota Gophers will hear at least three of their freshmen for the 2021-22 season names called with at least two more future recruits probably joining them. Below is a preview of who will/should be drafted this weekend and a potential preview of where they may end up.
Chaz Lucius—Forward—Grant, Minnesota
Lucius who committed to the Gophers when he was just 14 will be one of the most highly anticipated freshmen to wear the maroon and gold in some time. Lucius is expected to be the 22nd all-time Gopher to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft Friday night where he most likely will go in the teens.
Lucius only played part of the 2020-21 season after a knee injury sidelined him for some time, but he did not miss a step recording 18 points (13 goals, five assists) in just 12 USHL games with the US U-18 Team. His 1.50 points per game ranked third in the USHL. He is a pure scorer, the likes of who the Gophers have not had since Thomas Vanek.
Lucius comes into the draft as the 12th ranked North American Skater, and is ranked the 12th best prospect by The Athletic, #14 by the Sporting News, #10 by the The Hockey News, and #12 by Sportsnet.
Mock drafts have him going generally in the teens with the high end being the Chicago Blackhawks at #12, and no one sees him dropping past the New York Rangers at #15. We will all need to wait and see where he will end up.
Mathew Knies—Forward—Phoenix, Arizona
Knies is the second incoming Gopher freshman who is expected to hear his him called this weekend. Most projections have him going in the second round, but The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has him potentially sneaking in the end of the first round to Montreal with pick #31. Knies is ranked the #37 North American skater, and is ranked as the #60th best draft prospect by the Athletic.
The Phoenix native played the last two seasons in the USHL with the Tri-City Storm. IN teo seasons with the Storm Knies recorded 87 career points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 90 regular-season games while adding four points in three playoff contests
Knies has outstanding creativity and puck handling skills. He’s also great at using his size to protect the puck, and he’ll often go to the corners or be in traffic, fighting for the puck. He can have a tendency to do too much at times, and consistency will be an issue. Knies can be a very streaky player and needs to get stronger, but both of those things can be developed under Bob Motzko.
Tristan Broz—Forward—Bloomington, MN
Broz rounds out the three Gopher freshmen in 2021-22 who will for sure hear their name called this weekend. Broz is the #28th ranked North American Skater by the NHL Central Scouting and is ranked #47 overall by The Athletic. He is slated to go in either the second or third round with The Athletic’s most recent mock draft having him to to the New York Rangers with the first pick of the third round.
Broz played for two seasons at Blake High School before playing the last two years in the USHL with the Fargo Force with another pair of incoming Gopher freshmen in Brendan Boynton and Aaron Huglen. Broz was an offensive star and recorded 90 career points (34 goals, 56 assists) in 108 regular-season USHL games while adding 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 11 career playoff games. As an assistant captain in 2020-21 he led the Force to the USHL Clark Cup Final and recorded 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) in 54 regular-season games.
Two other future Gopher recruits who most likely won’t see the Mariucci ice for at least one season or two also are projected to be drafted in this weekend’s draft.
Luke Mittelstadt—Defense—Eden Prairie, MN
If the name Mittelstadt sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Luke is the younger brother of former Gopher and NHL First Round Pick Casey who is now on the Buffalo Sabres. Luke just finished up his senior year at Eden Prarie winning a Class AA State title. He recorded 35 points in 24 games for the Eagles scoring nine goals. He then played 12 games for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL where he recorded three points. Mittelstadt will play a full season for Lincoln this season before potentially coming into the Gophers roster for 2022-23.
Mittelstadt is ranked as the #98 North American Skater by the NHL Central Scouting and Corey Pronman of The Athletic has him going to the Florida Panthers in the 7th round of the draft.
Mittelstadt is a good two-way player but currently excels on the offensive breakout where his puck control and skating aids him. He will need to get much stronger and tougher on the defensive side of his game to be able to play in the NHL one day, but again, Gophers fans are hoping that he can learn those skills while wearing the maroon and gold.
Owen Bartoszkiewicz—Goalie, Northville, Michigan
One of the newest Gopher recruits, Owen Bartoszkiewicz ((Barta-SKAY-vitch) is an interesting prospect. He is the #22 ranked North American Goaltender prospect by NHL central scouting and continues to garner attention as a potential late round steal. Bartoszkiewicz played 41 games during the 2020-21 regular season for the Wichita Falls Warriers in the NAHL and posted a 23-14-4 record with a 2.44 goals against average and .917 save percentage. His six shutouts were 2nd among NAHL goaltenders.
The Hockey News did an article on him earlier this season about how scouting him and players like him are tough coming off of COVID. The Hockey News has him ranked as one of their top 10 goalies in the NHL draft and had this to say about him:
Bartoszkiewicz has a tendency to make big saves exactly when his team needs him to – he even refers to himself as a “Money Goalie”. He has good size for an NHL prospect and never seems to give up on a play with what scouts describe to be a high compete level. Bartoszkiewicz got most of the starts for the expansion Warriors and was the easy choice for the NAHL’s south goalie and rookie of the year awards. Bartoszkiewicz recently committed to play Division I for the University of Minnesota and after a few years of further conditioning, he’ll put himself into NHL contention.
He is slated to come to the U for the 2022-23 season to replace Jack LaFontaine on the roster.
Good luck to all the future Gophers this weekend and may we hope they get selected by NHL teams that believe in a robust college development program and not yanking players ASAP!