RICHFIELD, Minn. — Luke Kron knows all about playing the waiting game.
For months, the tough-nosed forward from Andover, Minn., has been waiting for the end of the NCAA recruiting “dead period” so he could meet in person with college coaches.
This week, he was waiting for the United States Hockey League to hold its draft to see if a roster spot in that league, or another season with the North American Hockey League's Minnesota Magicians, was his path for next season. And with the Magicians sweeping Fairbanks in the NAHL playoffs, he and his teammates are currently waiting to see who they will face in the next round of the quest for the Robertson Cup.
But on Monday, May 24, when Kron turned 19, he decided there was no more waiting for one major life decision. Via Twitter, Kron announced he is bound for the University of St. Thomas when his junior hockey days are done, and plans to join the Tommies as a freshman in the fall of 2022.
“I was super excited when they offered me,” Kron said, of his future with the Tommies. “I thought it would be a great spot to start, with a new program, to start the tradition and get in on a great culture that Coach (Rico) Blasi is going to build there.”
I’m pumped to announce my commitment to play division 1 college hockey at The University of St Thomas! Thank you to my family, friends and to everyone who has supported me a long the way. #rolltommies pic.twitter.com/mSm10CJctp— luke kron (@luke_kron) May 24, 2021
As a high school player, Kron was a center on that groundbreaking Andover team that made the first state tournament appearance in the program’s history. He got plenty of notice from college recruiters, some of which dried up due to an injury that limited Kron’s production for a time.
“He was a real quiet leader with our group,” said Andover coach Mark Manney, noting that Kron is the third player off the Huskies’ 2020 state tournament team to get a Division I opportunity.
On and off the ice, Kron is friends with defenseman Wyatt Kaiser, who just completed his first season at Minnesota Duluth, and defenseman Mitchell Wolfe, who is committed to Bemidji State.
“They pushed each other to work hard every day,” Manney said. “One day, someone would call and say, ‘I’m not going to go today, I’m a little sore,’ and the other guy would say, ‘I’ll be in your driveway in 10 minutes.’ Luke was a big part of that. He never took a day off from practice.”
In 27 games as a senior, Kron had 17 goals, 45 points and was a plus-22. In three varsity seasons with the Huskies, he had 45 goals, 113 points and was a plus-65 in 83 games.
The opportunity with the Tommies comes after a season which was a kind of reunion for Kron and Magicians coach Stu Bickel, who also coached Kron in the Upper Midwest Elite League and liked what he has seen, then and now.
“He’s a really well-rounded player. He really doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses, which is kind of uncommon. Usually there are a few holes in a player’s game,” Bickel said. “With Luke I don’t really see that .. .He’s probably the most well-liked player on a team that I’ve coached. Smile on his face every day, super passionate about the game. He’s always out doing extra before and after practice, getting better.”
For Kron’s part, the difference between prep hockey and the NAHL, where he has 6 goals and 13 assists in 39 games for the Magicians, has been stark.
“You need to work your way up with any junior team,” he said. “In high school, you’re kind of ‘the guy’ always and you get everything. In juniors, you need to fight and claw for everything.”
After flirting with a few other colleges in the state, Kron in the end elected to follow a kind of family legacy to St. Thomas, where he plans to get a business degree. After playing prep hockey in Richfield (where the Magicians play their home games), Luke’s father, Bob, played for the Tommies in the 1980s, when the State Fairgrounds Coliseum was their home ice and there was much talk — nearly 40 years ago — of St. Thomas moving up to the Division I level.
“We were going to build a rink, and then at that time, the college just decided not to do it,” Bob Kron recalled. “My college coach sent me a text last night and said, ‘Congrats on Luke. You and him are at similar points in your career, except Luke’s is real.’ So we’re super excited.”
Within the next week or so, Luke will learn who the Magicians will play in the next round of the NAHL playoffs, he will learn whether he is drafted by a USHL team, and as of June 1, he can visit the St. Thomas campus officially and meet Blasi in person.
Until then, with a big part of his academic and athletic future secured, just a little more waiting can hardly hurt.