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Tommy Vannelli commits to Minnesota

Top prospect Tommy Vannelli has committed to play for Minnesota.

Once again, a Minnetonka Skipper trades in a blue and white "M" for maroon and gold.

Tommy Vannelli, who was fourth on Western College Hockey's pre-season watch list for the Mr. Hockey award (annually given to the best high school senior skater in Minnesota), has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Minnesota. He announced his decision on Twitter Sunday evening.

The 6'2", 175 lbs defenseman is an intelligent two-way defender who has offensive awareness and can pick apart teams in transition. He also is defensively responsible and possesses good vision. While he can break the puck out with his outlet passes, Vannelli is more than capable of joining the rush and playing a role. In fact, one scout I talked to raved about his skating stride, calling it elite, along with his ability to hit that top gear with his acceleration.

That same scout thought he was presently better than a Minnesota freshman defenseman while another stated Vannelli was "likely a future power play quarterback at the 'U'."

At the same time, the senior does have room to grow filling out his frame. One of his knocks was a lack of strength and engaging opponents physically.

Vannelli has seen his stock rise over the last 12 months after an impressive performance during the USA Hockey Select 17 Development Camp and subsequent play at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament. He continued that with 14 points (4G-10A) in 20 games in the Upper Midwest Elite League and currently has 6 points (1G-5A) in 3 games for Minnetonka (MN). That play has culminated with multiple NHL draft sites and gurus having Tommy in their top 100 for 2013; including Future Considerations, who currently sees him as a first-rounder.

(NHL Central Scouting did not have him in their preliminary rankings because Minnesota high school hockey is not among the leagues ranked.)

Although Vannelli had visited Wisconsin among others this summer, he told the Minnesota Hockey Hub that his decision for the past several weeks was between Ohio State and the Gophers. It's a big get for Minnesota, who also have a pair of Minnetonka recruits in Jack Ramsey and Vinni Lettieri (who currently is spending his senior year playing for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL).

One thing that is unknown, however, is when the Gophers' newest recruit will step foot in Dinkytown. The team only has one senior on their blue line this year. While early departures are possible, they currently have Jake Bischoff and Michael Brodzinski among others as defensemen recruits. So it's likely the 17 year-old could spend a year in juniors before coming in - the Tri-City Storm currently own Vannelli's USHL rights - although with the way his stock has risen, his 2013 destination is yet to be determined.