Fargo’s Lincoln Kuehne 'shocked and excited' to be selected for NTDP Evaluation Camp
From late bloomer to promising blue liner, Fargo's Kuehne ready to compete for a spot in Plymouth
FARGO — Lincoln Kuehne laughs about it now, but his start on the ice involved a stream of tears and a helmet that didn’t fit.
“The first day I hated it and I’m pretty sure I cried my way off the ice,” Kuehne said. “When I was that young I didn’t see myself standing here today, but I’m really proud of how I’ve pushed myself and where I’m at now.”
Eleven years after that first day on the ice, Kuehne has emerged as one of the most promising defensive prospects in the Upper Midwest.
He’s enjoying a successful season at Northstar Christian Academy and was one of 45 players invited to the USNTDP Evaluation Camp earlier this week.
“I was pretty shocked honestly but I’m definitely excited,” Kuehne said. “This is something you dream about. So when I got the email, I was just shocked and excited.”
“We’re extremely proud of him,” added Lincoln’s father, Brent, who played in the NAHL and at Concordia College. “It just shows you that his hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed and he’s earned this opportunity.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound blueliner will be one of 15 defensemen competing in Plymouth, Michigan, next week. The NTDP Evaluation Camp, which takes place Sunday-Wednesday, helps decide the 2023-24 NTDP U17 team.
Kuehne, 15, grew up watching North Dakota games at Ralph Engelstad Arena and said his eventual goal is to play college hockey. He’s very familiar with the NTDP and knows earning a spot would be huge for his development and making that goal a reality.
“You see some of the players that have gone through the program and I know it’s a really good place to develop,” Kuehne said. “It’s a two-year commitment and a lot of young players dream of going there, and I’ve dreamed of it too. So I’m hoping to have a good showing out there.”
However, getting to this point hasn’t happened overnight.
“Truthfully, Lincoln’s been a little bit of a late bloomer,” Brent Kuehne said. “His first year of squirts he didn’t make the A team and you could see that it really agitated him. It was legitimately like a light switch went on.
“He was shooting pucks relentlessly, going to camps and doing all of the extra work after that. You could tell from that point on he was always doing all of the work to become the best player he could and his work ethic has been incredible.”
Born in November, Kuehne finds himself at the younger end of the 2007 age group. However, he’s never let it deter him.
Especially this season, where Kuehne said he’s seen some of the biggest strides in his game.
🚨 Knights Signing 🚨— Northstar Christian Academy Prep Team (@NCA_PrepTeam) July 23, 2022
Please welcome, 16U defenseman, Lincoln Kuehne.
Welcome Lincoln!#KnightsSigning pic.twitter.com/BlIZ88MdyW
A self-described offensive defenseman, Kuehne said he’s tried to prioritize playing in his own end and rounding out his two-way game this season. Along with getting comfortable playing in specific systems and situations.
His coaches have especially been impressed with the development of his hockey sense and understanding of the game this season.
“Lincoln has such a love for the game and he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to get better,” said Dallas Steward, one of Kuehne’s coaches at Northstar Christian. “The biggest thing with Lincoln is his skating ability, with and without the puck, and he wants to be involved in the offense. But at the same time, he’s very competitive defensively.
“When he plays simple, he’s really effective and efficient, and he’s a tough kid to play against. He’s smart defensively and he’s got skill and a big shot on the offensive side of the game. That’s the part of his game that I think the NTDP would desire to have.”
Now Kuehne is hoping those strides will follow him to Plymouth and earn him a spot wearing the stars and stripes.
At the same time, he’s trying not to get away from what’s gotten him to this point.
“I just want to go there and enjoy it, and show people the type of player I can be,” Kuehne said. “I just want to play my game and represent Fargo in a good way.”
This story has been updated to correct the headline.