Under Don Lucia, the Minnesota hockey team has gone outside the state to recruit players, something former coach Doug Woog rarely did. It has worked well for Lucia, as Grant Potulny (Grand Forks, North Dakota), and Thomas Vanek (Austria), played key roles in the Gophers' back-to-back national titles and 2004 WCHA playoff title.
The Gophers added another outstate player this week, when Kris Chucko officially signed his letter of intent to become a Gopher starting with the 2004-05 season. At the same time, Lucia knows homegrown players are still the pride of the Gophers and its fans, and with that, three more Minnesotans have decided to join Chucko and the Gophers next year. Alex Goligoski and Tom Pohl signed national letters of intent, while Evan Kaufmann has been accepted to the University and will walk on to the Minnesota squad.
Chucko is a 6-2, 190-pound forward from Burnaby, British Columbia. He recently finished his second season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). This season, Chucko finished second on the team and 12th in the league in scoring with 32-55--87 in 53 regular-season games. A team captain, he helped lead the Silverbacks to first place in the division and a runner-up finish in the BCHL Playoffs. Chucko was second on the team and ninth in the league in scoring during the playoffs with 10-10--20 in 14 games. A physical forward, Chucko is ranked as the 61st-best skater in North America in the NHL's Central Scouting Service mid-season rankings of top players eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
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 was the youngest captain in the BCHL this season.
"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 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."
Ferster believes Chucko will make an immediate impact.
"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's like American college hockey, plays without a red line. It's a step up to the college level and 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 content playing on the fourth line. He will likely step right in and be among the top six forwards. Minnesota is going to be glad they got him."
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."
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."
Alex Goligoski joins the Golden Gophers as a 6-0, 180-pound defenseman from Grand Rapids, Minn. With Grand Rapids High School in 2003-04, Goligoski had 25 goals and 31 assists to help lead the Thunderhawks to a runner-up finish in Section 7AA. He was a 2004 Mr. Hockey finalist, a member of the Associated Press All-State Team and the 2004 Duluth News Tribune Player of the Year. An offensive defenseman with great vision and quickness, Goligoski joined the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL) following his prep season. In 10 games this season with the Stampede, he has two assists. Last spring, Goligoski played with the USHL's River City Lancers.
Tom Pohl, joins the Maroon and Gold as a 6-1, 180-pound forward from Red Wing, Minn. The younger brother of former Golden Gopher Johnny Pohl, Tom is currently in his second season with the USHL's Tri-City Storm. He was third on the team and 28th in the league in scoring with 16-28--44 in 60 games. A highly-skilled player with a strong work ethic, Pohl had seven goals and eight assists in 55 games with the Storm in 2002-03.
Evan Kaufmann, a 5-10, 175-pound forward from Tonka Bay, Minn., is in his first season with River City. An aggressive and talented player with great hockey sense, Kaufmann is fourth on the team and 18th in the USHL in scoring with 20-30--50 in 60 games. Before joining the Lancers, Kaufmann was a key player on his team at Armstrong High School. During his senior season at Armstrong, he was named the Classic Lake Conference MVP and was a member of the all-conference and all-state teams.
Gopher men's hockey adds four top recruits
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