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Gophers Hockey: 4 University of Minnesota players drafted Saturday

Thomas Novak was picked in the 3rd round by Nashville.
Thomas Novak was picked in the 3rd round by Nashville.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was a long wait for defenseman Jack Sadek on Saturday, but one well worth it. The 18 year-old's reward for spending 3 hours nervously watching others picked was Sadek, a Lakeville, MN native, hearing his name called by his hometown Minnesota Wild.

The Wild chose the University of Minnesota incoming freshman with its seventh and final pick (7th round, 204th overall) in this weekend's NHL Draft.

Sadek, the first player heading to the University of Minnesota picked since Nick Leddy and Erik Haula in 2009, is one of four players with Gopher ties to be chosen by NHL teams Saturday.None were chosen in Friday's first round for a third straight year (albeit former Minnesota player and Islanders scout Trent Klatt announced New York's top pick), however, it is the third consecutive NHL Draft where four players with Gopher ties were drafted.

The Big Ten had 16 total picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, led by Michigan's 6.

Incoming freshman Brent Gates Jr. surprisingly was the first Minnesota player selected, going in the third round (80th overall) to the Anaheim Ducks. The 6'2", 196 lbs forward hasn't played since January after breaking his leg with Green Bay (USHL). Anaheim must have liked what it saw before that, though. Gates, who had 27 points (10G-17A) in 33 games before getting injured, is only the second-ever Gopher picked by the Ducks. The other, 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold, had his rights traded to Calgary in college.

Thomas Novak went five picks later to Nashville. The Predators chose Novak later than expected. A first or second round talent offensively, Novak had 48 points (14G-34A) in 46 games for Waterloo (USHL) while being named to the USHL All-Rookie second team.

Also the Music City team likely was impressed with his music choices.

Sioux City (USHL) defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf, a member of the USHL All-Rookie first team, became the first player with Minnesota ties picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning since Adam Wilcox in 2011. Zuhlsdorf was selected late in the fifth round with the 150th overall pick.

The Edina, MN native will spend wear the "C" for Sioux City and spend one more year in the USHL before coming to Dinkytown. Having a late birthday - Zuhlsdorf doesn't turn 18 until July - he scored 22 points (3G-19A) and played defense as a 17 year-old against 19 and 20 year-olds. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge, as did Novak.

Minnesota will have 12 players whose rights are owned by NHL teams for 2015-16. The 3 drafted freshmen are joined by Jack Ramsey, drafted by Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014 7th round. 7 players return from the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament champions. Transfer Nick Seeler (5th round in 2011 by Minnesota Wild) is also able to play with the Gophers after sitting out 2014-15.

Six Minnesotans were selected. In addition to Zuhlsdorf and Sadek are Brock Boeser (#23/Vancouver Canucks), Paul Bittner (#38/Columbus Blue Jackets), Will Borgen (#92/Buffalo Sabres) and Jack Becker (#195/Boston Bruins). Boeser (North Dakota freshman) was the first Minnesotan picked in the first round since the New York Rangers picked Brady Skjei 28th overall in 2012.


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --