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Outdoors, proximity to home are factors for Grand Rapids forward committing to Augustana

Garrett Drotts joins former Thunderhawks teammate Grant Bischoff as a recruit for the Vikings. Drotts is playing this season for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League.

Garrett Drotts Grand Rapids.JPEG
Garrett Drotts had 23 goals, 48 points, 12 penalty minutes, five power-play goals and five game-winning goals in 28 games for the Grand Rapids High School boys hockey team as a senior forward in 2021-22.

Augustana men's hockey coach Garrett Raboin grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and has a love for hunting and fishing.

When Raboin began recruiting Garrett Drotts, he found a kindred spirit.

"He knows his (hockey) stuff, obviously," Drotts said of Raboin, a former University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State assistant coach. "We have a similar personality. He loves to go out and hunt and fish.

"Our first talk, we just kind of clicked. I knew that this guy — we're going to get along ... He told me how my game is and it was (it) up to a 'T'. He knows how I play and he knows how to have success."

Drotts had "a couple" other NCAA Division I programs talking with him, but the former Grand Rapids High School forward announced his commitment to Augustana on Oct. 17 on Twitter.


"(Raboin) had been watching Grand Rapids for a while with Hunter Bischoff," Drotts said of Bischoff, a former Thunderhawks teammate and the first player to commit to Augustana. "My play style fits what they're going to do. I think a big part was the coach.

"The campus location and I love a small university. It's got everything. I can go 30 minutes outside of Sioux Falls and go hunting or fishing. Being a Minnesota kid, that's huge for me. And also being able to go to the city and hanging out with the boys — I also like doing that. It's a good mixture and location. It's six hours (driving) away from Grand Rapids really isn't that bad and my family can come and watch me play."

Recruiting heated up at the start of the season

Drotts said that the recruiting process heated up for him during the NAHL Showcase, which was held Sept. 14-17 in Blaine. A 2022 Grand Rapids graduate, Drotts is playing juniors this season for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League.

Grand Rapids' Garrett Drotts
Grand Rapids' Garrett Drotts
Submitted photo.

He is tied for ninth in the league in goals (7), tied for 18th in points (12), has 10 penalty minutes and is a plus-1 in 14 games.

"I think I'm a playmaker, but also, I like to score goals," said Drotts, who is listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds. "I want to become more of a two-way player, get more defensive. I'm trying work on that and implement that into my game.

"I like to play with speed and use my creativity. Being from Minnesota, I kind of like the outdoor rink stuff. I also helps me to play with a lot of good players in the summer like (St. Cloud State defenseman) Jack Peart, Joey DelGreco and (former Gophers defenseman) Jake Bischoff. I get different moves from them and get to implement that stuff."

Drotts had a lot of literal and figurative growth during his high school career. As a sophomore, he was listed at 5-8 and 145 pounds and did not have a point in nine varsity games.


As a junior, he was listed at 5-10 and 160 pounds and was third on the team in goals (10) and had 18 points in 18 games. Last season as a senior, Drotts was second on the team in goals (23) and fourth in points (48) in 28 games.

"He's very skilled, got a knack to make little hockey plays out there," said Wade Chiodo, the Grand Rapids boys head coach. "He's got soft hands. He's got a natural ability to always be in the right spot around the net.

"He puts himself in position to score goals and he's been like that since I can remember watching him as a peewee and bantam. Some players just find that open space and the puck comes to them. He's a skilled player who makes plays and has a knack to score goals."

Garrett Drotts Kenai River.jpg
Garrett Drotts has seven goals and 12 points in his first 14 games of junior hockey, playing for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League.
Contributed / Shelley Schmidt

Hockey playing relatives

Chiodo said he could not be happier for Drotts, who was selected by Kenai River in the second round of the 2022 NAHL Draft.

"He came in his sophomore year really short, really undersized," Chiodo said. "He matured and grew up between his junior and senior year. Everything came together for him and it was fun to watch him grow as a hockey player and take his play to the next level.

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"Even through his senior year, I remember having conversations with him and his goal was to play Division I hockey. He only had a few junior teams talking to him ... He didn't have a lot of options that were real concrete until the (NAHL) Draft. The great thing about the kid is he didn't lose focus and kept going for what he wanted to achieve. He's gone to Kenai and done an unbelievable job and he's gotten his opportunity to fulfill one of his goals."

Some of Drotts' hockey sense may be genetic. His grandfather, Gary Murphy, played forward for the University of Minnesota Duluth from 1966-68. His uncle, Aaron Murphy, played forward for the University of North Dakota (1997-98) and his uncle, Tom Murphy, played forward for Bemidji State (1990-94).


"I've been looking up to them ever since I was a kid, knowing that they were at the DI level," said Drotts, who said that Gary was one of his youth hockey coaches. "My grandpa has been hard on me since I was a little kid, yelling at me. He's been pushing me and he's probably my biggest influence on me with hockey.

"He'll tell me on a bad day and on a good day that there's always something to improve. I really enjoy that."

Drotts said that the plan for him is to play two seasons of junior hockey and then join the Vikings for the 2024-25 season.

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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