Add Erik Haula to the list of recent University of Minnesota Golden Gopher men’s hockey players to leave for the pro ranks. Now with 167 points leaving the program to graduation or professional hockey from this season, where is the scoring going to come from for next year’s Gophers?
Minnesota’s incoming freshmen class can score. Specifically at the forward position — which the Maroon and Gold will need to fill with the losses of Haula, Zach Budish, and Nick Bjugstad to the big leagues.
The majority of the scoring talent comes in the form of small and skillful forwards Taylor Cammarata (Plymouth, Minn.) and Justin Kloos (Lakeville, Minn.). Both are playing juniors this year together in the United States Hockey League and lead the Waterloo Blackhawks and the league in scoring.
Cammarata earned the regular season scoring title with 38 goals in 55 assists in 59 games on the season. The 5-foot-7, 156 lb forward is in his second year with Waterloo and was at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. before that.
Kloos finished runner-up in the regular season scoring race with 87 points total, but appeared in five fewer games than Cammarata did on the year. Kloos had a better points per game average on the year and more assists with 58. This is the first full season in the USHL for the 5-foot-9, 170 lb center. He won the Mr. Hockey Award in Minnesota after his senior season at Lakeville South High School in 2012.
The talented combo help lead Waterloo in to the playoffs that begin for them this evening in a best-of-five series against the Fargo Force. The duo amassed 58 combined points on the power play this year with each scoring 10 goals a piece with the man advantage.
Cammarata became the first Minnesota recruit to lead the USHL in scoring since Mike Howe did it in 2003-04 and Ryan Potulny the season before in 2002-03.
Points in juniors do not always translate to the NCAA Division I level, but having two players alone with a total of 180 points on the year coming in for the Gophers, is a good sign to help replace the skill that Minnesota is losing from this year.
In addition to the two Waterloo Blackhawks, Minnesota will welcome in a couple other forwards this fall in Hudson Fasching (Burnsville, Minn.) and Gabe Guertler (Plantation, Fla.).
Fasching is currently playing in Ann Arbor, Mich. with the USNTDP and skated previous to that at Apple Valley High School with current Gopher A.J. Michaelson. A bigger forward than that of the two boys from Waterloo, Fasching is 6-foot-2 and a healthy 215 lbs. He has a scoring touch as well and is expected to be a late first round or early second round draft pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft in June.
Guertler will be an opponent of Cammarata and Kloos tonight as his Fargo Force host Waterloo in the USHL playoffs. The 5-foot-9, 178 lb forward was fourth on his team in scoring with 51 points, but lead them in goals scored with 31 in the regular season. He will be the first Florida-native to strap on the skates for the Maroon and Gold this fall at Mariucci Arena.
Don Lucia did a solid job of locking down big time scorers in Cammarata and Kloos for this upcoming season. Good coaches see how their team projects years down the road to prepare for early departures to the pros and other spots available from graduation. As of right now on paper, Minnesota should have one of its best overall freshmen classes in quite some time.
Other forwards that may be on campus this fall are cousins Vinni Lettieri (Excelsior, Minn.) and Louie Nanne (Edina, Minn.) who are both currently playing juniors and are the grandson’s of Gopher Hockey legend Lou Nanne. Lettieri is more likely to enroll as a freshmen this fall as he is also competing in the USHL playoffs with the Lincoln Stars and is a full year removed from high school hockey at Minnetonka.
Louie Nanne is playing in Penticton, B.C. with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. He would still be a senior at Edina High School if he hadn’t left school early to play a year of juniors in Canada. He will likely play one more season in the BCHL next year or come down and compete in the USHL next season to be closer to home.
The need for Lettieri and/or Nanne may be a necessity as redshirt sophomore Jared Larson has left the program and will likely transfer to another school to play hockey.
All of this talent is likely to stick around for a few seasons in Stadium Village. Get used to the names as the broadcasters on the Big Ten Network will have them burnt into your memory quickly.