Minnesota has named junior forward Justin Kloos its captain for the 2015-16 season.
Kloos, who finished fourth on the Gophers last year with 32 points, is the team's leading returning scorer. The 5'9", 179 lbs center led Minnesota in goals as a freshman while being named the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA West Regional. He finished with 13 as a sophomore, including a hat trick against St. Cloud State on November 1 and game-winning goal against Michigan in the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship game.
"Justin has been a program-first player since he arrived on campus. He's a terrific teammate, a hard worker and a great example of how we want our student-athletes to carry themselves on and off the ice" Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a statement. "He is a great representative of our program and the University of Minnesota, and we are excited to name him as our team captain for the upcoming season."
Prior to his time with the Gophers, Kloos spent a full season with Waterloo (USHL) alongside Minnesota linemate Taylor Cammarata. The 21 year-old Lakeville, MN native captained Lakeville South (MN-HS), where he helped lead the Cougars to a state tournament appearance in 2012 and was named winner of the Mr. Hockey Award, given to the best senior in Minnesota boy's high school hockey.
Kloos is the first undrafted player to wear the "C" for Minnesota since Judd Stevens in 2004-05. He replaces two-time captain Kyle Rau, who graduated in May after a four-year career with the Gophers and signed a pro contract with the Florida Panthers.
"Growing up in Minnesota and seeing the guys who have been a part of this school and this tradition, this is a huge honor for me and I'm incredibly thankful for the support of my teammates," Kloos said.
He is the 161st player in Gopher history to wear a letter, a tradition that dates back to 1921-22 when Chet Bros was named captain. The total includes both assistant coaches Mike Guentzel (1984-85) and Grant Potulny (2001-2004), along with several current and former NHLers.
Who joins Kloos in the leadership will be determined at a later date, according to the team. What is known is that they, like Kloos, will wear a letter on their maroon and gold sweater for the first time. 2014-15 alternate captains Seth Ambroz and Ben Marshall both, like Rau, were seniors that graduated.
With early departures, A.J. Michaelson is the only incoming senior returning this year that played on a regular basis
Minnesota does have several juniors that could fit the bill in Hudson Fasching, Cammarata, Vinni Lettieri, Michael Brodzinski, Jake Bischoff and redshirt junior Connor Reilly. No underclassman has worn a letter since Jordan Schroeder did so in 2008-09.
This year's team will try to continue its recent run of trophy hardware. The Gophers won its fourth consecutive regular season title in 2014-15 - two in the WCHA and two in the Big Ten - while adding the Big Ten Conference Tournament title. Minnesota's season, however, ended two games short of a third Frozen Four appearance in four years. The Gophers fell to Minnesota Duluth in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota opens its defense of both titles and quest for a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance on October 10th at home against Vermont in the U.S. Hall of Fame Game.
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 -- Follow @gopherstate