One-and-done with Gophers as Chaz Lucius signs entry-level contract with Winnipeg Jets
After one productive but injury-shortened college hockey season, Minnesota Gophers freshman forward Chaz Lucius signed his first professional contract with designs on playing in the NHL next season.
GRANT, Minn. — Folks who watched him play going all the way back to when he was 14 and verbally committed to the Minnesota Gophers felt that Chaz Lucius was a one-of-a-kind talent, who had a future in professional hockey. On Wednesday, the future arrived.
After one injury-shortened season of college hockey, Lucius inked a three-year entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets, who had picked him in the first round (18th overall) of the 2021 NHL Draft. He will be paid an average salary of $1.325 million if he plays at the NHL level.
“The biggest thing for me is I felt I was ready and able to make that jump,” Lucius said in a phone interview with The Rink Live. “I believe in myself, I believe in the people around me, I know that I’m going to put in a good summer of training and I’m ready for the next step.”
Lucius, who turns 19 next week and is listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, skated in 24 of the Gophers’ 39 games as a freshman, scoring nine goals and adding 10 assists. He missed time with a hand injury in November, then returned to the lineup and was a productive part of the “Niners” line with Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies in January.
“Chaz is one of the most impressive offensive players I have coached in my career. His ability to create offense at any moment on the ice is as high level as I’ve seen,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said in a statement released by the school. “He has a tremendous future ahead of him with the Winnipeg Jets organization, and we look forward to following what is sure to be a long and impressive pro career. We wish him the best as he takes the next step in his hockey career.”
In February, Lucius dealt with a lower body injury that would eventually spell the end of his season. He warmed up for a Feb. 19 game at Penn State but was pulled from the lineup due to the ailment and did not suit up for the Gophers again.
“It was definitely an up-and-down season, for sure,” he said. “The biggest things for me were the two injuries I dealt with. That’s out of my control but when I was healthy and going, I was very productive and I loved my time at the University of Minnesota. I wish the team nothing but the best.”
Chaz and his younger brother, Cruz, famously committed to the Gophers when they were 14 and 13, respectively, back when age restrictions on recruiting were not in place. They both came up through the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Cruz is currently playing for Team USA at the U18 World Championships in Germany, and is committed to the U of M for next season.
Chaz had surgery to repair the lower body ailment following the Gophers’ trip to the Frozen Four and is taking classes remotely from the family’s home while he recovers.
“The recovery is going good. I get my stitches out tomorrow and after that it’s kind of a week-by-week thing,” he said on Wednesday evening. “Just taking it one day at a time to see how my ankle is reacting and feeling with movement and motion and go from there.”
The Jets noted that his contract begins with the start of next season.