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Five with Gophers ties ranked as draft prospects by NHL Central Scouting

When the first dozen or so picks are made in the 2023 NHL Draft, which will be held in Nashville in June, at least one future Minnesota Gopher is expected to be selected.

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Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) skating in warm-ups at the 2022 USHL Fall Classic as the USNTDP prepares to take on the Omaha Lancers.
Kirsten Krull / The Rink Live

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Last summer in Montreal, Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko was in attendance to watch the first round of the NHL Draft live and see two of his recruits — Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud — picked in the opening round.

If projections from NHL Central Scouting are accurate, Motzko should probably book a trip to Nashville to hear another future Gopher’s name called on June 28. Oliver Moore , a forward currently skating for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Michigan, is projected as the sixth-best North American skater available in the upcoming draft, and is a good bet to go in the first round.

Moore, who is from New Brighton, Minn., had a goal and an assist versus the Gophers in an exhibition game in Minneapolis in late December, and showed plenty of promise offensively and defensively.

“I thought Oliver had an outstanding game and showed the type of player that he is,” said Team USA coach Dan Muse following the Gophers’ 3-2 win on Dec. 29. “I thought he showed it at both ends too, with the offense he was able to create and the skill that he was using but also the way he was tracking back and getting back above guys. That’s a tough team to defend and I thought he showed a lot of the characteristics that make him who he is. He’s a special player and a special person.”

Among the other North Americans ranked by the NHL , one current Gopher and three more commits are draft prospects. Current Gophers freshman defenseman Luke Mittelstadt, who recently grabbed a bronze medal at the 2023 World Juniors, is ranked 82nd. Future Gophers forward Beckett Hendrickson, who is skating for the NTDP team with Moore, is ranked 94th.

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Minnesota Gophers defenseman Luke Mittelstadt (20) takes the puck along the boards against Penn State in the first period Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

And two west metro prep rivals who are committed to be teammates with the Gophers are expected to be picked in the later rounds. Eden Prairie forward Teddy Townsend is ranked 154th, while Edina forward Jackson Nevers , who committed to the Gophers this week, is ranked 167th.

As has been the case a few times in recent years, the opening few picks of the draft could have a real college hockey feel to them. Following Canadian star Connor Bedard, who is ranked first, we see Michigan standout freshman forward Adam Fantilli second, and two future Boston College Eagles — Will Smith and Ryan Leonard — ranked third and fourth, respectively.

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Cooley, who went third overall to Arizona, and Snuggerud, who went 23rd overall to St. Louis, were among four Gophers selected in the 2022 draft. Defenseman Ryan Chesley went 37th overall to Washington in the second round, and forward Connor Kurth was tabbed in the sixth round by Tampa Bay, with the 192nd overall pick.

NHL: NHL Draft
Logan Cooley walks onto the stage after being selected as the number three overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre in Montreal July 7, 2022.
Eric Bolte / USA Today Sports

Former Gophers defenseman Erik Johnson, who won the Stanley Cup with Colorado last season, was the highest-picked U of M product, when he went first overall to St. Louis in the 2006 draft.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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