ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Blake Lizotte will be going from the top line for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team to the NHL.
Lizotte, a 21-year-old center from Lindstrom, has signed a three-year entry level contract on Tuesday, April 2, with the Los Angeles Kings. Lizotte will join the Kings on Wednesday and said he expects to be in the lineup for Los Angeles either at Anaheim against the Ducks (9 p.m. Friday) or in Los Angeles against the Vegas Golden Knights (9:30 p.m. Saturday).
"This has been an awesome place for and I wouldn't leave for something less than a stellar opportunity," Lizotte said. "This is the best opportunity for me this year and the following year. I felt like this was a good time for me to go."
Undrafted, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound center said that he had 10 NHL teams that wanted to discuss a contract with him after the season ended. St. Cloud State had its season end with a 2-1 loss to American International College in the opening round of the NCAA Division I West Regional playoffs on Friday in Fargo, N.D.
"They give you a bit of time because it was an emotional loss," said Lizotte, who had an assist on the Huskies' lone goal in the NCAA playoffs. "I'm still heartbroken and I don't think I'll ever stop being heartbroken about that loss.
"Sunday, teams began to start making calls. They said they wanted to give me a day or two to sit back and think."
The fact that Lizotte ended up signing with the Kings should not be a shock to St. Cloud State fans. Former Huskies captains Nic Dowd and Kevin Gravel were both draft picks of the Kings who ended up signing with Los Angeles after their college careers ended.
Former St. Cloud State forwards Jonny Brodzinski and Mikey Eyssimont were both drafted by the Kings and are in the organization. Brodzinski is currently with the Kings, while Eyssimont, Lizotte's linemate last season, is playing for the Kings' American Hockey League team in Ontario, Calif.
David Hrenak, a sophomore goalie for St. Cloud State, is also a Kings draft pick.
A former St. Cloud State player, Brooks Bertsch, has been with the Kings organization since 2016. Bertsch spent two seasons as the Kings' assistant video coordinator before becoming a scout of college players before this season.
Bertsch spent a fair amount of time cultivating a relationship with Lizotte during the season.
"He's been very active in the recruiting process, contacting me throughout the year," Lizotte said of Bertsch. "He's a great guy and did a great job and I feel comfortable with him. He played in St. Cloud and Brooks made that connection."
Lizotte received NCHC honors in both of his seasons with the Huskies. He had 19 assists, 27 points, was a plus-16 and won 58.7 percent of his faceoffs (10th in the nation) in 39 games as a freshman and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team.
This season, he had 28 assists, 42 points, was a plus-28 (sixth in the nation) and won 62 percent of his faceoffs (fifth in the nation) in 37 games and was named to the All-NCHC First Team. Lizotte was also a finalist for NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year.
He helped St. Cloud State win back-to-back NCHC regular season titles and leaves with good memories.
"This was the best time of my life and that's the only thing I can say," said Lizotte, whose parents both attended St. Cloud State. "This was the best choice for me to come to St. Cloud State because of the culture, my teammates, my roommates, the students, my coaches... These are friendships and relationships that I will have the rest of my life.
"My time here has been nothing short of spectacular. There's not one bad thing I can say about the university and it's a remarkable town, a hockey town that deserves a national championship. I truley believe Coach (Brett) Larson will do that, bring a national championship there.
"This was one of the hardest decisions to leave."
Winning backyard Stanley Cups
But the pull of his dream of playing in the NHL was too great.
"This goes back to when I was 2 years old and skating on the pond behind my house," he said. "I used to skate around like I was (former Wild forward) Wes Walz. Winning the Stanley Cup on that back pond happened to me daily. My dream is coming to fruition.
"God has played a big part of my life, putting me in a situation where I've gotten to work hard and succeed. I think it's God's plan for me to go."
Before getting to St. Cloud State, Lizotte played two seasons in junior hockey for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League and one season with the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League. Before that, he helped Chisago Lakes High School reach the Class A state tournament.
Lizotte is the second St. Cloud State center to leave the Huskies before his eligibility ran out. Ryan Poehling, a first round draft pick, signed with the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday after his junior season ended.
With their signings and players finishing their eligibility, the Huskies will lose their top four players in points and five of their top six from this season.
Mick Hatten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MickHatten on Twitter, Instagram.