Verona, Wisconsin native Tarek Baker has left the Badgers' backyard before to play hockey. Baker spent the last two seasons with the Omaha 16U AAA team. Now Baker is heading to the University of Minnesota.
The 16 year-old forward made his decision Monday night to play college hockey with the Gophers
Although a date for Baker to come in is unknown, he would likely be 2015 at the earliest.
Baker is a huge get for Don Lucia's club. Last year as a 15 year-old, Baker scored 22 points (9 G- 13 A) for Omaha in 18 NAPHL games. That includes 2 goals a game I called last December where he was the most noticeable person on the ice. He has great hands and elite, top-end speed.
More recently, Baker shined this weekend at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN. The 5'11", 185 lbs forward scored a mind-boggling 18 points (6 G-12 A) in 5 games as Omaha out-scored its opponents by a total of 35-6 (going 5-0 in the process). That total includes a 16-0 win over Phoenix, but still the goal differential is ridiculous.
One scout who saw Baker play this weekend said he had big time skill and "was a threat every time he touched the puck." Another person said that he was the most memorable player over the weekend.
(Our own Chris Dilks and Matt Christians have more later in the week as part of SB Nation College Hockey's NAHL Showcase coverage.)
As a Wisconsin native, Baker's CHL rights - a hot topic in Dinkytown given former freshman defenseman Tommy Vannellii officially left the Gophers for Medicine Hat (WHL) tonight - are in the OHL. The Saginaw Spirit currently hold them after taking him in the seventh round of the 2013 OHL Priority Draft. His USHL rights are owned by Des Moines, who took Baker in the second round of the Phase I Draft this year.
Baker is the second 1997-born player from Wisconsin to commit to Minnesota. He joins River Falls, WI native Tommy Novak, who committed in March. The last player from Verona to play for the Gophers? Phil Kessel.
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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate