Future Gopher Logan Cooley picked third overall by Arizona; two more Gophers go in NHL Draft opening round
Before he will don a NHL sweater for what all expect will be a lengthy and lucrative pro career, Logan Cooley will skate for the Minnesota Gophers for at least one season. But when he is ready to try hockey for a paycheck, it will be as a member of the Coyotes.
MINNEAPOLIS – In November, Logan Cooley will make a visit to his future workplace, and get a feel for the ice and the surroundings at Arizona State’s new rink. Cooley, who will be a Minnesota Gophers freshman in the fall, was picked third overall in Thursday’s NHL Draft, going to the Arizona Coyotes.
There was some intrigue with the first two picks, as Slovakian stars went to Montreal and New Jersey, but Cooley, who is from Pittsburgh, ended up in the place most experts had him slotted, going third.
“Arizona is the spot I wanted to go to. It’s a team I felt comfortable with. I had a really strong connection with (them) and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of their organization,” said Cooley in an interview with ESPN immediately following the pick. When asked what else excited him about Arizona, he mentioned their warm and sunny winter weather.
The Coyotes are moving out of their former home in the suburb of Glendale, and will play at ASU’s 5,000-seat on-campus rink for now, while they work to get a new NHL-size facility built in Tempe. Cooley and the Gophers have two games scheduled at ASU on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
In going third overall, Cooley becomes the second-highest pick by a Gopher after defenseman Erik Johnson went first overall to the St. Louis Blues in 2006. Johnson won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche last month.
Shane Wright, a major junior star center from eastern Canada, was projected by many to go first overall to Montreal. The Canadiens, who hosted the draft in their building, shocked many in the large crowd by picking Slovakian left winger Juraj Slafkovsky instead. New Jersey, flush with forwards, also passed on Wright, taking Slovakian defenseman Simon Nemec. That left Arizona with Cooley and Wright to choose from. When the Coyotes went with the former USA Hockey star, Wright fell to Seattle at number four.
Cooley becomes the highest ever pick by a player from Pennsylvania. He chose the Gophers in February after originally committing to Notre Dame.
Twenty picks later, another future Gopher headed to the stage at the Bell Centre as forward Jimmy Snuggerud went 23rd to the St. Louis Blues.
Snuggerud will be a third generation Gopher and played alongside Cooley for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program last season.
Two picks later, the Chicago Blackhawks traded up to grab defenseman Sam Rinzel with the 25th pick. Rinzel, who was the nation's top-rated high school prospect, played prep hockey for Chaska last season and is committed to the Gophers.
Rinzel, who is a sizable defender, will play for Waterloo in the USHL for the coming season and is expected on campus at the U of M in the fall of 2023.
"This is an outstanding class coming in, and it tops it off today," said Gophers coach Bob Motzko, who was in attendance at the draft in Montreal. Under NCAA rules, he is not allowed to talk about Rinzel prior to the player signing a national letter of intent. "I'm so happy for Jimmy and his family and Cooley and his family. And there's more to come too. That's what's exciting."
Incoming Gophers defenseman Ryan Chesley, projected as a first-rounder in several mock drafts, did not go in the first 32 picks, but is expected to go early on day two of the draft.
The three Gophers selected made this the second-biggest opening round in program history. In 2006 Johnson, Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo and David Fischer were all picked in the first round.