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Lincoln's Tanner Ludtke continues to use same ‘relentless work ethic’ as his NHL Draft stock rises

Lakeville South product and NHL Draft prospect Tanner Ludtke enjoys breakout season with the Lincoln Stars

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Lakeville South product Tanner Ludtke is 28 games into his seconds season with the Lincoln Stars. Ludtke leads Lincoln with 17 goals this season.
Contributed / Branden Anderson via Lincoln Stars

OMAHA, Neb. — Tanner Ludtke’s work ethic and determination started with a list of names on his wall. Coaches who cut him, those who doubted him, those who said he wasn’t good enough — the list went on and the names changed over time.

It was the first thing Ludtke saw in the morning and the last thing before his head hit the pillow. However, it served as motivation and helped mold the player he is today for the Lincoln Stars.

“He’s always been such a competitor,” Marcus Ludtke said. “Even as a young kid. He was feisty, he was all over the ice and he always wanted to win. He didn’t care how it looked necessarily but he always was trying to impact the game and he wanted to win.

“Those habits have been ingrained in him since he started competitive sports and he’s always been able to keep pushing back against the ceiling that so many others have tried to put on him.”

“He’s always been such a go-getter and I always knew he was going to be great at something,” added Griffin Ludtke, Tanner’s older brother. “He just always wanted to prove people wrong and he still carries a chip on his shoulder.”


Fast forward to today and Ludtke now finds himself as the name on another list — the top USHL prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft.

It’s been a breakout second season for Ludtke who has 17 goals and 32 points in 28 games. The Lakeville South product netted just one goal in 24 USHL games last season.

Ludtke was the 72nd-rated North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings earlier this month. Many believe he’ll hear his name called during next summer’s NHL Draft and with three months left in the season, his stock could very well continue to climb too.

Between his start to this season and appearances at the World Junior A Challenge and BioSteel All-American Game, there’s no denying Ludtke’s made a name for himself. At the same time, with that comes extra attention and pressure.

“I try not to get too caught up in everything and just keep my head down and go to work,” Ludtke told The Rink Live last week in Plymouth, Mich. “At the start of the season you start making a list of goals. (The BioSteel All-American Game) was one of the things on there and you really just keep working towards these types of events and building off them throughout the season.

“Being here is something that I’m super fortunate for and I don’t take lightly. But I just want to stay consistent with my game and not overthink it. I’m someone that tries not to get too results-driven and I just want to continue to stay on the grind and play my game.”

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Tanner Ludtke pictured during the BioSteel All-American Game. Ludtke has a team-leading 17 goals this season for the Lincoln Stars. “I would say I’m a 200-foot player with a high IQ,” he said. “I like to play hard below the dots and I’m not afraid to go to the net.”
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

Ludtke currently ranks 14th in the USHL in points and is tied for seventh in goals. He’s also currently riding an eight-game point streak and his eight power-play goals are the third-most in the USHL. But getting to this point hasn’t happened overnight.

The left-shot center started skating when he was 2 and wants to continue playing as long as he can. He played his youth hockey in Lakeville and spent three years playing at Lakeville South. The Cougars reached the state tournament all three years.


His father played football while his mother, Jordi, played soccer at St. Thomas and Concordia College (Moorhead) respectively. Tanner also played football into middle school but growing up in the hockey hotbed that is Minnesota, hockey won out.

“You could always tell he loved being on the ice,” Griffin Ludtke said. “Growing up in Minnesota there’s always five or so kids you’re always being compared to if you’re one of the better players and honestly, he probably wasn't on those lists growing up. But he’s just continued to work and his work ethic is something that’s really been cultivated over the last six or seven years.

“He’s just been so relentless in his pursuit of being the best player he can be and it’s been super fun to watch as a big brother.”

The two brothers have followed similar paths in recent years from Lakeville South to the USHL and even into college. They’ll reconnect once again at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where Griffin is currently a freshman for the Mavericks.

Tanner is an Omaha commit and could potentially join the program as soon as next season.

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Tanner (left) and Griffin Ludtke grew up idolizing the Poehling brothers (Jack, Nick and Ryan) at Lakeville North and St. Cloud State. Although they’re one brother short, both are looking forward to sharing a similar bond in Omaha. The two haven’t played together since Tanner’s freshman year of high school.
Photo courtesy of the Ludtke family.

But those three years at Lakeville South are where Ludtke’s game really started to evolve.

“Tanner always wanted to learn and pick your brain on different things and he was just a high-energy kid. He was always hungry to get better and I really loved coaching him,” said Janne Kivihalme, Ludtke’s coach during his first two years at Lakeville South.

“We played on a line together (at Lakeville South) and I’ve known him since he was super young. And you could always tell he was going to be a special player,” added Cade Ahrenholz, who currently plays at Colorado College. “He’s always had a great attitude and work ethic so I’m not surprised to see him have the success he is right now at all.”


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“Every time I see Tanner’s name pop up on Twitter it puts a smile on my face because he truly deserves it,” Cade Ahrenholz said. “I know he’ll continue to stay on that tear and continue to do great things in his hockey career.”
Brandon Anderson / Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Stars.

Ludtke put up 14 points in 25 games as a freshman. He responded with 16 goals and 50 points as a sophomore and led Lakeville South to the Class AA Championship Game. The Cougars lost to Eden Prairie in double overtime, 2-1.

Ludtke racked up another 61 points (23-38-61) in 30 games last season.

“I think playing my freshman year really helped me get comfortable and learn how to handle the uncomfortable moments,” he said. “And I think that’s really helped me here in Lincoln. Especially last season when I came back.”

However, those 30 games weren’t his only action during the 2021-22 season. As several Minnesota kids have done in recent years, Ludtke opted to leave Lincoln and return home for his junior season at Lakeville South.

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Make no mistake, it was a tough decision at the time. But in hindsight, it’s one Ludtke feels has helped.

“I was in a really good spot in Lincoln and leaving the guys hurt,” Ludtke said. “Plus I didn’t know what the coaches were going to think about it. But after it was all said and done I don’t think it could’ve worked out better.

“Because when you leave and you come back you’re essentially starting over. You have to work and earn your spot in the lineup again and when I got back I was scratched in the first game. It was a little bit of a humble reminder and you really see how hard you have to work to be successful in this sport. I think last year was one of the best years I’ve ever had and that confidence really helped me coming into this season too.”

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Tanner Ludtke (left) skates with his older brother, Griffin. “Tanner wasn’t exactly a brand name player growing up and he had to work for everything and earn what he’s got,” Marcus Ludtke said. “What people don’t see in the summer with Tanner is his work ethic. He’s invested 110% and he’s committed to becoming the best player he can be.”
Photo courtesy of the Ludtke family.

Through 28 games this season, the difference is showing.


“We saw a big change at the end of last season when he returned to us and he had a great summer, and he’s just continued to take advantage of every opportunity this season,” said Lincoln head coach Rocky Russo.

“He’s just continued to round out the details of his game and I know he’s still got a long way to go to be a high-impact player at the next level but it’s certainly in his near future.”

Multiple NHL scouts have told The Rink Live his skating is the biggest area Ludtke still needs to improve moving forward. Russo echoed that but added he’s seen improvement throughout this season and he’s also seen improvement in Ludtke’s play away from the puck.

No matter what happens over the next six months and beyond, those closest to Tanner are proud of the position he’s put himself in. More importantly, they’re proud of how he’s done it.

“The USHL is a tough league and everyone is really good,” Marcus Ludtke said. “You play a lot of games and you really have to bring it every night. Plus you’re on your own, you’re living with a billet family and you have to grow up very quick.

“It’s a huge step and to see him handle the pressure and everything how he has this season, I’m just super proud of him.”

“I think he’s handled everything extremely well,” added Griffin Ludtke. “T is a very calm individual and yeah he knows it’s there but I think he’s done a great job of not letting the outside noise affect him. Yeah, it’s fun to be recognized. But at the end of the day, all it is is somebody’s opinion. So I think he’s very good at not reading into that stuff too much and he just puts his head down and continues to work with the same relentless work ethic. And he doesn’t run away from critiques or make excuses either.

“He’s been crushing it this season and obviously his stats speak for themselves, and that’s what most people recognize. But I think what’s most impressive is what people say about him. He’s putting himself in a good position to be a very successful hockey player.”


Jordan McAlpine is a junior and prospects reporter for The Rink Live.
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