A look at the Minnesota Gophers 2021-22 roster last week, after forward Nathan Burke entered the transfer pool, showed them in need of a forward. On Monday, they found a forward of some regard to join their ranks.
Grant Cruikshank, the captain and leading goal scorer for Colorado College last season announced on his Instagram page that he will try his hand at Big Ten hockey next season, transferring to Minnesota. He has two years of college eligibility remaining.
"I think that Minnesota has a loaded team and is ready to win a championship," Cruikshank said on Tuesday afternoon. "I think it's just a great spot. I couldn't be more excited to be joining Minnesota and to play in the Big Ten. I have a couple friends on the team, so it's kind of nice to have some familiarity. Super excited."
Originally from Delafield, Wis., a far-flung suburb of Milwaukee, Cruikshank was destined to find work on ice before he was even born. His mother, Bonnie Blair, is a five-time Olympic gold medal speed skater and his father Dave skated in three Olympics for Team USA.
He has trained with Gophers defensemen Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson in the past, and played in two games against the Gophers early in the 2019-20 season, scoring one goal versus former Gophers goalie Jared Moe. Cruikshank said that goalie Jack LaFontaine and captain Sammy Walker have been friends for years.
Cruikshank will join a Gophers team that looks sound on defense and in goal, but has a few holes to fill on offense, after Sampo Ranta and Scott Reedy both signed pro contracts, and Brannon McManus transferred to Omaha.
Cruikshank came up through the youth hockey ranks in Milwaukee, skating for the Milwaukee Admirals AAA program then spent two seasons in the BCHL with Penticton (where he played alongside former Gophers goalie Mat Robson) before joining the Tigers.
At CC he had 11 goals as both a freshman and a sophomore. He had eight goals in 16 games last season, and missed a few games with appendicitis. He said the decision to transfer, after former Tigers coach Mike Haviland was let go at the end of last season, came after much soul searching.
"I had a really great relationship with Havy, and then started to look elsewhere," Cruikshank said. "I couldn't be happier to have decided on Minnesota. It was a super-hard decision and one I put a lot of thought into. I had many, many discussions with my family, close friends and everybody that's part of my support team."
Of the 200-plus players in the transfer portal, Cruikshank was one of the few projected as a top six forward and thus was a sought-after commodity. He was rumored to be looking at Boston College, North Dakota and St. Cloud State as well as the Gophers.
Back at his family's home in Wisconsin currently, he said he is finalizing the transfer paperwork and expects to move to the Twin Cities in the early summer. Cruikshank wore jersey No. 21 at CC, and could feasibly grab that jersey with the Gophers, as it was vacated with Burke transferring.