Gopher hockey recruit Kris Chucko "the real deal"

The Gophers men's hockey team received a verbal commitment from Canadian hockey star Kris Chucko of Burnaby, British Columbia and the Salmon Arm of the BCHL. Find out why Chucko should be a key addition to the Gophers lineup, and what he will bring to the team.

Add another top-notch recruit that Don Lucia has been able to land for the Golden Gophers men's hockey team.

The latest is Kris Chucko of Burnaby, British Columbia, who recently gave a verbal commitment to play for the Gophers next season.

Chucko, 17, is a 6-2, 200-pound power forward who is captain of the Salmon Arm of the British Columbia Hockey League. In 33 games this season he has 50 points on 18 goals and 32 assists. Chucko is the third-leading scorer on his team behind North Dakota recruit Travis Zajac, who has 68 points, and Division I prospect Jason Miller, who has 54 points. The Silverbacks are currently in first place in the BCHL Interior division with a record of 28-10-1 and average a BCHL-leading five goals per game.

Salmon Arm head coach Rylan Ferster said Minnesota fans are getting a gem of a player, and one heck of a person in Chucko, who is the youngest captain in the BCHL.

"First of all, you have a first-class individual which I think is exemplified by the fact he is our team captain," said Ferster. "I think that shows what kind of respect the organization has for him."

On the ice Ferster calls Chucko your prototypical power forward. He has 89 penalty minutes and has scored 11 of his 18 goals on the power play.

"He brings it every single night," said Ferster. "One thing Minnesota fans can count on is 'Chuck' bringing it. You never question his work ethic. And he earns respect because he is one of those guys who is willing to go into high traffic areas and stand in front of the net and take the hacks and whacks and do whatever it takes for his team to win."

Salmon Arm sent seven players to Division I hockey last year, and along with Zajac and Miller, have numerous other players who will be playing at the Division I level next season. Ryan McLeod has committed to Alaska Fairbanks, Blaine Jarvis to Bemidji State, and Craig Switzer to New Hampshire. Miller, Ferster said, is still mulling over numerous Division I offers.

David Banks, editor of British Columbia Hockey Now magazine said Chucko is the real deal.

"Kris Chucko is an absolutely fantastic prospect and player," said Banks. "Big, smart, decent skater, good hands. It will be very interesting to see where he gets drafted because I think he's an excellent pro prospect in three to four years."

The line of Chucko, Miller and Zajac is one of the most potent in the league. All three are big, strong and fast, and hard to move off the puck.

"Playing with Travis and Kris is like playing pond hockey," Miller said earlier this season. "They make it so easy for everybody out there. We can really get things going and it doesn't seem like very long before everyone's hands are in the air."

As for being named captain, Chucko has accepted the responsibility with open arms.

"I'm honored to be the captain," said Chucko. "I lead by example, working hard every shift. Hopefully, the other guys pick up on that."

Chucko also considered Michigan, Denver, and North Dakota, but Ferster said the recent success of the Gophers was a major factor in his decision to come to Minnesota.

"He did his homework and really weighed his options," said Ferster. "He didn't hurry and he made all his visits. He was really impressed by the coaching staff down there and really felt wanted. He's a smart guy and comes from a great family. I can count on my fingertips the number of games his parents have missed in his two years here, and it's a 4-½ hour drive to our home games."

Ferster expects Chucko to have an immediate impact when he joins the Gophers next season.

"It's a step up to Division I, but he is ready," the coach said. "The BCHL is regarded as one of the top Junior A leagues in North America. It's a fast-paced, highly-skilled league that, like American college hockey, plays without a red line. It's going to take some adjustment, but he's a guy who can definitely step in and contribute right away. He's not a guy who will come in and be asked to pay his dues on the fourth line. He will likely step right in and be among the top six forwards. I tell you what, Minnesota is going to be glad they got him and the fans are going to love him."

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for GoldenSports.Net. He can be reached at mattkrum@yahoo.com.

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