Gophers hockey star Logan Cooley returns for another season, telling NHL to wait

From scoring goals to precise passing and end-to-end runs, Logan Cooley made a stellar debut for the Gophers men’s hockey team last season.

Get ready for a sequel, as the All-America center and one of three Hobey Baker Award finalists returns for its second year, the university announced Friday.

Cooley, a Pittsburgh native who helped lead the Gophers to the NCAA Championship Game, opted to stay with the Gophers over signing with the Arizona Coyotes, who earned him third place in the 2022 draft of the NHL.

“To have Cools and that skill set back in Minnesota will be even better,” said Jimmy Snuggerud, Cooley’s linemate and fellow freshman.

Cooley had 22 goals and 38 assists for 60 points, a total that ranked second in the nation. Centered on a line with sophomores Matthew Knies and Snuggerud, the 5-10, 180-pounder was a force in leading the Gophers to a second straight Big Ten regular-season championship and their second straight Frozen Four. Cooley’s line had 64 goals and 88 assists and 152 points as the Gophers went 29-10-1.

Cooley had a 16-game point streak from Jan. 14 in the national semifinal win over Boston University and a seven-game multi-point streak from Feb. 24 in the win over the Terriers. In the playoffs, he had six goals and six assists, with the national championship game loss to Quinnipiac being the only one in which he didn’t score a point.

“We were so lucky to have Logan come with us, and we’re extremely excited to have him back for another year,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “I think it’s a great decision and one that will benefit him in the long run. To run and benefit from our program, no doubt. It’s great for Logan and Jimmy to continue their development. There’s a great track record of players who have played two or three years of college hockey, and that really helps them get into the National Hockey League.

Snuggerud said he was “pretty thrilled” to hear Cooley was returning and was quick to point out the unfinished business in the Gophers’ 3-2 overtime loss to Quinnipiac.

“He’s coming back to win a national championship like we all are,” Snuggerud said. “Obviously we didn’t achieve that goal. We got so close, and that’s our goal from now on.

The NHL will wait

Cooley was in Pittsburgh on Friday and was unavailable for comment, an athletic department spokesperson said. He and Snuggerud posted a video on Instagram through the Dinkytown Athletes name, image and likeness (NIL) collective that they are returning to the Gophers.

By staying with the Gophers, Cooley delayed signing a three-year, entry-level NHL contract worth up to $950,000 a year. He will likely have expanded the possibilities of making money through NIL deals, although college hockey players don’t command the prize money that football and basketball players do.

“You hear million dollar offers for football and basketball. Our players are getting burritos,” Motzko said at the Frozen Four in Tampa, referring to Cooley’s NIL deal with Chipotle Mexican Grill. .

Cooley’s decision to delay signing with the Coyotes comes three days after voters in Tempe, Ariz., rejected a proposal to build an entertainment district that would have included an NHL-sized arena for the crew. This adds more uncertainty to the franchise’s future in Arizona. The Coyotes will play a second straight season at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullet Arena in 2023-24, but after that they could be candidates for relocation.

The list takes shape

Cooley’s return means the Gophers will have one of their three first-team All-America selections for 2023-24. Knies and junior defenseman Brock Faber, the other two, signed pro contracts and were strong in the playoffs for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Wild, respectively.

Snuggerud, whose 50 points on 21 goals and 29 assists ranked fifth nationally, announced in April that he would return for his second season. And this week, center Jaxon Nelson and goaltender Justen Close said they would return to enjoy their fifth year of eligibility. Another senior, winger Bryce Brodzinski, is expected to make his decision soon.

“We have the tools we need to win this thing,” Snuggerud said.

Jackson LaCombe signed with the Anaheim Ducks and made his NHL debut in April, while fellow senior defenseman Ryan Johnson, a Sabers first-round pick, is expected to either sign with the Sabers or wait until mid- August to test NHL free agency. .

With Cooley’s return, however, the Gophers will have another year’s star that regularly knocks fans out of their seats.

“When they get the puck, the whole rink freezes over,” Motzko said in March, comparing Cooley to former Gophers star Thomas Vanek. “The other team, the coaches, the players and the fans – there’s a hiatus and everyone’s waiting to see what happens when the big guys get it.”

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