ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Two puck-moving defensemen and a hard-working, improving forward have signed National Letters of Intent to play for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team in 2021-22.
Defensemen Jack Peart and Josh Luedtke and forward Mason Salquist of Grand Forks, N.D., have had all their paperwork finalized during the NCAA fall signing period, which began Wednesday.
All three players will come in with junior hockey experience.
Peart, 17, played five games last season for the Fargo Force and is with that United States Hockey League team again this fall. He is waiting to decide if he will play all junior hockey or return for his senior season at Grand Rapids High School.
Luedtke, 20, is beginning his second season of junior hockey with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL.
Salquist, 20, split time between the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League and the Force in 2018-19. Salquist played all of last season with Fargo.
"Having that junior experience helps and, every once in a while, you get that young kid like Peart who is ready to come in (to college) right out of high school," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said. "Having a couple of kids come in with two years of junior experience helps.
"A kid like Peart, who has the potential to be a very special player here, is able to come right out of high school, but he will also have some junior experience in Fargo. That junior experience has been critical to his development."
Here is a closer look at the three players who have signed:
Honored to announce my commitment to play college hockey at St. Cloud State University Thanks to my teammates, family, and coaches. #Huskies— Jack Peart (@jpeart24) June 4, 2018
Peart, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds, is a player that it is tough for Larson to hide his excitement about. He verbally committed to St. Cloud State at the age of 15 before he had played a game of high school hockey in June 2018.
Last season, he led Grand Rapids in goals (13), power-play goals (5), points (31) and blocked shots (41) in 27 games. As a sophomore, he was second on the team in assists (14), points (22) and blocked shots (34) in 26 games. Last season, he also had two assists and was a plus-2 for Fargo in five junior hockey games.
"Jack is kid that we built a relationship with early and we couldn't be more excited that he's coming to St. Cloud," Larson said. "We think he's a blue chip recruit. Not only that, but he's a great kid and a strong competitor."
"I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but he's a little mix of Jimmy Schuldt and Jack Ahcan," Larson said, referring to two two-time All-American defensemen for the Huskies. "He's got some of the offensive flair that Jack and Jimmy had (for us), but he's also got that really mobile skating ability that allows him to defend really well. He can really play both ends of the ice.
"He's also got that jam and competitiveness that both of those guys had."
Schuldt was a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2019 and was a three-year captain for the Huskies. Ahcan was the captain last season.
Peart is listed as a "C" prospect by NHL Central Scouting in its first list of players to watch for the 2021 NHL Draft in October. "C" level prospects are considered possible fourth- through sixth-round picks.
Honored to announce my commitment to play hockey at St. Cloud State University! I can’t thank God, my family, teammates, coaches and everyone who has supported me over the years enough. Excited for the future! #huskies— Josh Luedtke (@joshluedtke3) May 2, 2020
Luedtke, who is listed at 5-9 and 176 pounds, originally verbally committed to play for Northern Michigan and then Denver when he played for Minnetonka High School. But he decommitted from Denver last spring and then committed to play for the Huskies in May.
Last season with Des Moines, Luedtke had 20 points, 36 penalty minutes and was a minus-11 in 45 games for the Buccaneers, who were two games under .500.
At Minnetonka, he was a a three-year letterwinner in both lacrosse and hockey, had a 3.9 grade-point average and scored a 26 on his ACT. As a junior, Luedtke scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime of the Section 2AA championship game and helped the Skippers win their first state title. He had 36 points, 24 penalty minutes and was a plus-44 in 23 games and was named to the AP All-State Third Team.
As a senior, Minnetonka was ranked No. 1 in the state most of the season, but the Skippers were upset by Holy Family in the section semifinals. That season, Luedtke was the team's captain and 11 goals (including five game-winners), 36 points, 24 penalty minutes and was a plus-29 in 27 games and was named to the AP All-State Second Team.
"I would think he will be counted on to be their top two-way defenseman in Des Moines this year," Larson said. "He's mobile, he can move the puck, he can defend and he can join the offense. He's got a really good, complete game.
"The thing we both defensemen that we signed is that they're both extremely mobile. They can skate."
Luedtke will extend the string of former Minnetonka players to play for the Huskies in recent years, which includes freshman forward Joe Molenaar, Schuldt and former Huskies defenseman Andrew Prochno.
"I like our Minnetonka pipeline," Larson said with a laugh. "All those guys were captains there and now Josh was another captain (at Minnetonka).
"High character, great student."
I am very proud to announce my commitment to play Division I college hockey at St. Cloud State University. Thank you to all my family, friends, teammates, and coaches. Can’t wait to begin this new journey. #Huskies— Mason Salquist (@msalquist_5) April 4, 2020
Salquist, who is listed at 5-8 and 165 pounds, verbally committed to St. Cloud State in April after making a virtual visit. Last season with the Force, he had 15 goals, 27 points, 30 penalty minutes and was a plus-4 in 46 games.
In 2018-19, he split the season between the North American Hockey League's Janesville Jets and Fargo. With the Jets, he had 10 assists, 12 points and eight penalty minutes in 24 games. With the Force that season, three assists, four points in 12 games.
"He's had to work for everything, from playing in the North American League to fighting to play in the USHL to becoming a top player in the USHL," Larson said. "He's one of those guys who continually gets better every year. He's got a chip on his shoulder and had to earn everything he's gotten.
"He also shows a lot of leadership qualities and I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up wearing a letter up in Fargo this year. He plays center, on the top power play. He's a gritty skill guy. He competes, but he's got skill to make a play, is always around the puck and hounding the puck. He can probably play anywhere in your lineup."
He played high school hockey for Grand Forks Red River, the same high school that former Huskies Jon Lizotte and Jacob Benson played for. As a senior, he was third in the state in assists (38) and points (61) in 26 games. As a junior, he was fifth in the state in assists (30) and was 10th in points (43) in 27 games.
St. Cloud State has eight seniors on this season's roster in defensemen Seamus Donohue, Luke Jaycox and Tyler Anderson and forwards Jared Cockrell, Easton Brodzinski, Will Hammer and Kevin Fitzgerald and goalie David Hrenak.
With the NCAA recently declaring that athletes who play this season will have an additional year of eligibility after this season, it has created a different look for coaches to consider.
"We were only able to sign a few players with the new rule that our entire team just got another year of eligibility," Larson said. "That could change a lot of things. I'm assuming a few of our seniors will come back for an extra year, which puts us in a position where we can only bring in a few guys.
"It's tough. It's good because we love the guys on our team and if there's an opportunity for them to come back, it's great. It also means that a few guys that may have come out of juniors for us next year are going to have to play another year (of juniors)."