Former Minnetonka captain Josh Luedtke adjusting to school, role at SCSU
Freshman defenseman played the last 2 seasons for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Josh Luedtke spent the last two seasons playing junior hockey for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.
A big part of the reason why Luedtke went back last season was to refine his game and he was the team's captain. Another season of juniors meant another year not attending school as well. The transition to playing college hockey and attending St. Cloud State has had some adjustments in the early going.
"The adjustment has been good and I think playing two years of juniors has helped the transition be pretty smooth, so I was glad to be able to get that in Des Moines," said Luedtke, who had 42 points and 95 penalty minutes in 93 USHL games. "I think school was a little challenging at first. The first few weeks were definitely an adjustment period because it had been awhile since I'd been in classes.
"Once I got the routine down, I think I've gotten the hang of it."
One of the changes for Luedtke on the ice has been fighting for playing time with the third-ranked Huskies . St. Cloud State (4-2) plays host to Wisconsin (2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday (FOX 9+) and 6 p.m. Saturday (FOX 9+) at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
It will be interesting to see if a healthy Luedtke is in the lineup this weekend. He played the second game of the season against St. Thomas, was a healthy scratch in the series at Minnesota State University-Mankato and then played both games last weekend against Minnesota. This comes a season after he played a lot of minutes and saw time on special teams with Des Moines.
St. Cloud State has nine defensemen who have all played at least two games this season.
"I think it's been good for us. When you have a competitive 'D' core like we have, everyone is going to battle for ice time," said Luedtke, who is one of two freshman defensemen (Jack Peart is the other) for the Huskies. "It's done nothing but help all of us get better, which is only going to help the team.
"Obviously, coming into it, I just want to do my best to contribute and accept whatever role I have. I'm just thankful to be a part of this team and for the opportunity."
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Against the Gophers, he had a blocked shot in the opening game and was listed as the team's seventh defenseman and then picked up his first college point (an assist) and had three shots on goal in the overtime loss and was listed as the sixth defenseman.
"He's got a really good track record with being a captain on a state championship team at Minnetonka," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said of Luedtke playing for the Class AA high school state champions in 2018. "I like his mobility and strength.
"For a smaller guy (5-foot-9, 175 pounds), he's really strong. So he can get to people and close quickly whether it's off the rush or defensively. When he gets there, he's strong enough to win the battle. We thought (the Gophers series) was a really good series to get him in a couple games because his style fits for a really fast game.
"I thought he handled it really well. He seemed composed. It didn't seem like the moment was too big for him. Like any other player, he made a few mistakes but those mistakes didn't seem to rattle him. I just thought he played a really mature game for a young guy."
The 21-year-old admits that he had some nerves before the games, but he did not let that hinder his play.
"I think the biggest strength of my game is my compete level," he said. "I think my work ethic has also been a strength and I was able to contribute with that. I was also able to have tight gaps (defensively) and close on some plays with my skating.
"You're going to have some nervousness going into it, but I think it's important to not play afraid. I'd rather make a mistake in full confidence versus making a mistake and playing tentative."
Luedtke knows that he is far from a finished product on the ice and is working on continuing to make progress with different aspects of his game.
"The areas of my game that I want to work on is getting pucks through to the net on the offensive blue line, working on my box outs in our (defensive) zone and I want to work on having that good first pass when I'm breaking the puck out," Luedtke said.
Larson said that Luetke's decision making and work ethic are a good combination.
"He seems to make the right read under pressure and not try to do too much," said Larson, a former college defenseman. "If there's a simple play, he makes it. Sometimes, I think the best thing for those young guys to get into it and feel confident is making the right, simple play early so you're not getting yourself in trouble. You're always just advancing the puck and your first read, you feel good and get into the game.
"He's done a good job with that."