Say what you want about Minnesota hockey coach Don Lucia, but there is no question the man has some serious recruits coming his way.
Last year, we saw Jordan Schroeder leave after two years, and freshman defenseman Nick Leddy developed nicely as the season wore on. The Gophers weren't good enough to make the NCAA playoffs or WCHA Final Five, but they have more help on the way.
Possible top ten NHL Draft pick Nick Bjugstad joins this fall, and possible 2011 top five pick Seth Ambroz was supposed to join him. The thought was that Ambroz -- who left high school for the USHL after his freshman season -- would be ready to play what would normally be his senior season of high school hockey in the WCHA.
It's quite a jump, but for someone who has been on an accelerated path, it wasn't something seen as impossible.
Hold on, though. Gopher blogger Hammy reported on Twitter that Ambroz will not join the "U" this fall. His report is backed up by a story on U.S. Hockey Report, a subscription-based site.
The thinking is simple: Ambroz will benefit more from being an alpha dog in the USHL than he will from having to work his way up the ladder at Minnesota. Not only that, but the physically imposing Ambroz took over 100 penalty minutes last year for the Omaha Lancers. If there is one part about his game that really needs work, it's probably that discipline thing.
Jokes about how WCHA officials treat the Gophers aside, it's probably not a good idea for him to enter the WCHA when he's only 17, has a reputation for taking penalties, and has to deal with 24- and 25-year-old college seniors. His fearlessness in the corners will eventually suit the Gophers well, as they have been known for a shortage of hard-working, high-character players in recent years.
That size (6-3, over 200 pounds by the time he gets to college) will help him a lot, too.
In the meantime, one has to wonder what Ambroz will do this year. Will he be bored with the USHL, or will he light it up like Thomas Vanek did before he became draft-eligible and eventually started terrorizing WCHA defenses?
Worse yet, will he become a pawn in the NCAA/CHL war? Let's hope not. Ambroz is a Minnesota kid, and he grew up close enough to the Twin Cities that you have to figure he's going to live a dream of sorts by playing for the Gophers. Not only that, but his advisor is former Bulldog and NHL mainstay Shjon Podein, and I can't see him recommending a kid go play major junior when he's been committed to a college for this long.
It's a bit strange to see a guy who has been pro-active in accelerating his education and hockey development suddenly hit the brakes. But this could be a good move for Ambroz, both in terms of becoming a star at the next level and for his 2011 draft chances.
We won't know if he did the right thing until the scouts have their say next winter.