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Gophers Hockey: 2015 NHL Draft Primer

Led by Thomas Novak, several incoming and future University of Minnesota players expect to hear their names called this weekend. Nine current Gophers already have.

Minnesota sophomore D Jack Glover at last year's NHL Draft, where he was selected 69th overall by Winnipeg. Nice.
Minnesota sophomore D Jack Glover at last year's NHL Draft, where he was selected 69th overall by Winnipeg. Nice.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

By the time the NHL Draft's seventh round is completed on Saturday, several incoming and future University of Minnesota players will hear their names called in Sunrise, Florida. A few are going to BB&T Center just for that possibility. Five players with Gopher ties were ranked in Central Scouting's 2015 Final Rankings, led by incoming freshman forward Thomas Novak as the 27th-best North American skater.

Two big questions to be answered are how many players do get selected and whether or not Novak will be selected on Friday.

The 2015 NHL Draft begins 6:00 p.m. CT Friday (June 26) with the first round. Rounds 2-7 will then happen on Saturday (June 27) from 9 a.m. until noon. NBCSN broadcasts the first round in the United States while NHL Network has Day 2 coverage. (Sportsnet has coverage for our Canadian friends.)

Minnesota could realistically have anywhere from two to five players drafted. That begins with Thomas Novak continuing a streak since 2001 where at least one team has drafted a player with Gopher ties.

Slated anywhere in mock drafts from late in the first round to early in the third round, Novak is the only one with a possibility to snap the Gophers' drought of first round selections. No Gopher has gone in the first round since Brady Skjei was selected by the New York Rangers (28th overall) in 2012. If the streak continues it will be the first time since 1997-1999 that Minnesota has not had a first round pick in three straight drafts.

Novak, a 6'0", 180 lbs River Falls, WI native, played high school hockey at St. Thomas Academy. He spent this past season in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks, putting up 48 points (14G-34A) in just 46 games, and won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior A Games. The left wing is an offensive playmaker at the next level. While needing to become more consistent and be better defensively, Novak has several attributes which interest teams.

He began the year with a "A" rating (1st round) by NHL Central Scouting and stayed in that area most of the season, dropping a little towards the final rankings and NHL Draft.

Novak is one of three Minnesotans who could be taken in the first round albeit the least likely of the trio. It's much more likely he goes in the second round. The other two - Novak's Waterloo teammate and Burnsville native Brock Boeser (playing at the University of North Dakota next season) along with Crookston native Paul Bittner (Portland - WHL) - project slightly higher. The duo are expected to go anywhere from 17 to 35.

No player from the state of Minnesota has been drafted in the first round since Skjei.

Incoming freshmen Jack Sadek and Brent Gates Jr. are ranked 79th and 105th by Central Scouting, respectively. Sadek, a defenseman coming directly from winning a Class AA title at Lakeville North, is in the words of SB Nation College Hockey Chris Dilks, "an incredible athlete [that] possesses one of the quickest first steps out of any player in the Draft."

Gates, a 6'2", 196 lbs forward and first Michigan native to play for the Gophers, is a powerful skater who can use his size and has a big shot. Where he goes could be tough to peg. Gates' draft season with Green Bay (USHL) ended in January with a broken tibula. He'll be ready for the fall, though.

Defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Sioux City - USHL) is 202nd. Goaltender Logan Halladay (Bloomington - USHL), passed over last year, is the 27th-best North American goaltender according to Central Scouting. Both will play another year in the USHL and are expected to come to Minnesota in 2016-17.

In addition to the five ranked, there is a chance a player not rated by Central Scouting can be drafted like Eric Schierhorn. Such was the case for Steve Johnson last season while on the flip side Tyler Sheehy did not get drafted despite being ranked. (Sheehy is in his third and final year of eligibility. Splitting the year between Waterloo and Youngstown (USHL), he not ranked this year)  Central Scouting acts as a hypothetical 31st team and is not the end-all be all.

Freshman forward Jack Ramsey enters Dinkytown already being drafted by an NHL team. Ramsey, who played high school hockey at Minnetonka (MN) and the two last seasons with Penticton (BCHL), was a seventh round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014.

Including Ramsey, nine players have their rights owned by NHL teams.

Current Drafted University of Minnesota Players

Number of players drafted (since 2005):

2014: 4

2013: 3

2012: 2 (Skjei - 28th overall)

2011: 6

2010: 6 (Nick Bjugstad - 19th overall)

2009: 6 (Nick Leddy - 16th overall, Jordan Schroeder 22nd overall)

2008: 2

2007: 9 (Patrick White - 25th overall, Jim O'Brien - 29th overall)

2006: 8 (Erik Johnson - 1st overall, Phil Kessel - 5th overall, Kyle Okposo - 7th overall, David Fischer - 20th overall)

2005: 4

*Seeler transferred to Minnesota from Nebraska-Omaha

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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 --