Rinkytown blog: Gophers get future commitments from former 'Tonka twosome
With a pair of commitments this week, the Minnesota Gophers will be adding a familiar name at forward and an adopted Minnesotan on defense in future years. Plus, a Gophers captain will wear the C in international competition.
MINNEAPOLIS – If you happened to see one of Minnesota’s prominent hockey families raising a toast on an outdoor patio on Lake Minnetonka on a hot Friday night, it was a well-earned celebration.
The smiles and expectations for the future come after Beckett Hendrickson, the former Minnetonka star forward now heading into his second season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development program, announced on Friday that he will follow a family legacy to the University of Minnesota.
Hendrickson, 17, is the son of 1991 Mr. Hockey winner and current Wild assistant coach Darby, and the nephew of former Gophers forward Danny. While the next generation heading to Dinkytown as well may seem like a given, Beckett did his research in advance of a college choice.
“I was talking to some great schools, but overall (Minnesota) was my dream school ever since I was a little kid,” said Hendrickson, who is 6-2 already and can play the classic “power forward” role effectively. “It felt like home, and I couldn’t go wrong with the decision.”
Darby played more than 500 NHL games and scored the Wild franchise’s first-ever goal at home. He was out of pro hockey in North America by the time Beckett was born, but apparently passed on some pretty impressive on-ice traits.
“Beckett was one of the very few kids we see that can step in as a freshman and play big minutes in the Lake Conference. That’s pretty rare,” said Minnetonka Skippers coach Sean Goldsworthy. “What I see best about Beckett are some intangibles that are really hard to track. His play off the puck is really, really strong, as is his IQ, his anticipation, and his spatial awareness is really high end. We’re seeing his body catch up to his game, and he’s going to be able to play on both sides of the puck for a long time.”
Beckett said he has seen plenty of pictures of his father skating for the Gophers, and is excited to follow in those strides.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories too,” he said, with a laugh. “My parents helped me out and told me to check out schools as much as I could, and take it all in. That’s what I did, and just found my way to the Gophers.”
Adopted Minnesotan headed for Gophers blue line
The Red Sox cap on John Whipple’s head after a recent workout at a gym in Edina might throw some people off. When he follows baseball, it’s as a Yankees fan, and the New Jersey Devils are his NHL team. But after spending much of his teenage years in Minnetonka and choosing the Gophers as his college destination, Whipple admits he’s about as Minnesotan as they come nowadays.
Whipple, a defenseman who turned 16 in January, visited several Big Ten schools while pondering his hockey future, then announced his commitment to Minnesota on Aug. 1. Already better than six feet tall, he said the goal over the next two years will be to add some additional bulk, as the physical part of the game is a favorite.
Born in New Jersey, Whipple learned the game there. But with roots in Minnesota (his mother, Molly, is originally from Wayzata) he spent many holidays in the state with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and like many who see the State of Hockey from a distance, became fascinated with the sports culture here. When Trey and Molly Whipple decided to relocate from New Jersey to Minnesota a few years ago, it felt like a homecoming in some ways.
“In New Jersey, hockey is somewhat big, but you never really know what hockey is like until you get here,” Whipple said. “In New Jersey, I remember driving 15 minutes to the rink every day. We move to Minnetonka and you can skate five minutes away, and everyone plays hockey, everyone loves hockey.”
After a standout bantam season in Minnetonka, Whipple played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s the last two seasons, and will move to Michigan soon to skate in USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, likely for the next two seasons. On the ice he likes to emulate Charlie McAvoy’s game, running the show from the blue line. According to those who have scouted him, Whipple’s feet are his greatest strength.
“He’s an effortless skater who seems to never get tired out there,” said Shattuck U-18 coach Tom Ward, a former Gopher himself. “It’s fun to watch him. John has a chance to be a really special player.”
Faber to wear the C for USA
In June, Gophers junior defenseman Brock Faber was named one of three captains for Minnesota's coming season. By the time the team takes the ice versus Lindenwood on Oct. 1, he will have had plenty of practice in a team leadership role.
On Friday, USA Hockey announced that Faber will serve as captain for the American entry in the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship. Team USA begins play on Tuesday, Aug. 9, in Alberta, taking on Germany.
The American team leadership will have a Big Ten flair, with former Michigan standout Thomas Bordeleau and Notre Dame star Landon Slaggert named alternate captains. Wearing the red, white and blue is not a new thing for Faber, who played for Team USA in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. He also won a Big Ten title with the Gophers last season and was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.
Team USA coach Nate Leaman said if the Americans are to win a medal, he will need leadership from more than just Faber, Bordeleau and Slaggert.
“You don’t make it through this tournament if everyone doesn’t lead,” said Leaman, in a statement released by USA Hockey. “At some point, every guy will be called upon to lead in their way, especially if we want to win gold.”
Faber already has a World Juniors gold medal, after playing defense in the 2021 tournament where the Americans blanked Canada in the finale.