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Minnesota Gophers Hockey: NHL Draft Preview

A quartet of current/Future Gophers are expected to be drafted over the next two days

2023 Biosteel All-American Game Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The 2023 NHL Draft kicks off Wednesday night in Nashville with the first round while rounds two through seven will be completed on Thursday. A year after five Minnesota Gophers heard their name called at the 2022 Draft including a trio of first round picks with Logan Cooley going #3 overall to Arizona Coyotes, Jimmy Snuggerud #23 to the St. Louis Blues and incoming freshman Sam Rinzel going #25 to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Gophers will look to add another several current or future players to those ranks. The Gophers are expected to have four of their current or future players selected over the next two days including adding one more first rounder to next year’s roster.

Oliver Moore—F—Mounds View, MN

Moore will be a freshman for the Gophers this fall and is expected to be the Gophers 26th First Round NHL Draft pick on Wednesday evening. The 5’11, 190 pound forward has spend the last two season with the US Development Program where he has been one of the best players. Last season with the USNDP team he recorded 75 points in 61 games and scored 31 goals. At the 2023 World U-18 Championships Moore recorded nine points and scored four goals in seven games helping the US to the Gold Medal.

Moore’s elite talent is his speed. He is one of if not the fastest skater in this year’s NHL Draft. he has good hands, and he’s quick to the puck on the forecheck and has a good idea of what to do with it once retrieved.

Moore has defensive skills to be a quality penalty kill player as well and has the potential to be a top 6 player in the NHL after a few years of seasoning with the Gophers.

Moore has been slated at a potential pick all through the middle of the first round. Several mock drafts have had him going as high as #9 to Detroit, with joining Cooley with Arizona at #12 as another popular landing spot. It appears Moore’s absolute floor is to the Winnipeg Jets with pick #18. In any case, the Gophers should be able to put four first round NHL draft picks on the ice at Mariucci next season.

Beckett Hendrickson—F—Minnetonka, MN

Hendrickson has signed his NLI, but it is yet unsure if he will come in as a freshman this fall, or more likely will play one more season in the USHL and come in as a freshman in 2024-25. When he does, he will be the second generation of Hendrickson’s to be U of M athletes joining his father Darby who was a Gopher star in the early 1990s along with his uncle Danny who also wore the Maroon and Gold. The 6’2, 168 pound forward has been a teammate of Moore with the US Development Program the past two seasons. Last year in 52 games he scored 13 goals and recorded 34 points. He added a pair of assists in seven games with the US team at the U-18 World Championships.

Hendrickson is not the flashy star but is a speedy, responsible forward who does a lot of little things right and has a solid offensive game. He also has shown a knack for reading offenses, leading opponents to turn the puck over. He has all the qualities of a future three or four year player who could easily wear the C for the Gophers one day.

Hendrickson is expected to be a mid-round pick potentially going as early as the top of the fourth rounds where he has been mocked at #104 to the Philadelphia Flyers and #105 to the Vancouver Canucks, or could fall as far as the New York Rangers in the 5th.

Luke Mittelstadt—Defenseman—Eden Prairie, MN

The rising Gopher sophomore lived up to the hype as a freshman for the Gophers last season. He was draft eligible a season ago, but all 32 NHL teams decided to pass. They will not make that mistake again in 2023. Mittelstadt joined the Gophers and immediately earned regular minutes in the Gophers defensive rotation and earned power play time on Minnesota’s second unit. The 5’11 185 pound defenseman scored 21 points in 38 games for the Gophers helping them to the NCAA Championship Game. He recorded three points at the World Juniors Championship with the US team.

Despite his breakout for the Gophers, his size still leaves a bit to be desired for an NHL defenseman. While he won’t go undrafted again, Mittelstadt may need to wait until the last few rounds to hear his name called on Thursday with most mocks having him go late in the sixth or in the 7th round.

Teddy Townsend—Forward—Eden Prairie, MN

Townsend is the lone player of this group who will not wear the maroon and gold for some time. Townsend just finished his senior season at Eden Prairie this past year and then joined the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL for the rest of their season. He will return to the Blackhawks for another season before likely coming in as a Gopher freshman in 2024.

The 5’10 165 pound forward recorded 39 points including 14 goals in 27 games last season for Eden Prairie. He has been gradually becoming a better and better player from being named the 2021 Bantam Player of the Year in Minnesota to being the captain of the Eagles this past season. He’s a good offensive player who needs to get stronger to have a serious impacts with the Gophers in a season, but will likely start as a middle six forward before climbing the depth chart.

Townsend like Mittelstadt will need to wait a while to hear his name as he has been mocked generally as a 6th or 7th round selection.

Other Names of Note:

Gophers fan will recognize several other names called in the NHL draft including Michigan's Adam Fantilli. The Hobey Baker Award winner over Gophers Cooley and Mathew Knies is expected to go in the top 5 of Wednesday’s first round, and maybe even #2. The hope for Minnesota fans is that he goes somewhere where they will sign him immediately with him headed to the pros rather a sophomore season at Michigan.

Likely top 10 picks from the US development Team Will Smith and Ryan Leonard are both headed to Boston College in the fall.

Wisconsin forward Charlie Stramel could sneak late into the first round, as could forward Danny Nelson from Maple Grove who is headed to Notre Dame in the fall.

One of the top 3 goalies who are likely to be drafted is Adam Gajan who is headed to Minnesota-Duluth.

How to Watch:

The first round of the NHL draft begins at 6 PM on Wednesday night and will air live on ESPN. Rounds 2-7 will begin at 10 AM Thursday and will air on NHL Network. Both days will stream live on ESPN+.