Minnesota Duluth saw two freshmen and a future centerman go in the third and fourth rounds Wednesday of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Freshman defenseman Wyatt Kaiser of Ham Lake, Minnesota, was the first Bulldog to come off the board, going to the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round, No. 81 overall. The Montreal Canadiens took the next two in the fourth round, drafting recruit Jack Smith of St. Cloud with the 102nd overall pick and freshman defenseman Blake Biondi of Hermantown at No. 109.
Kaiser, 18, of Ham Lake, Minnesota, is one of two freshmen — along with Hermantown’s Blake Biondi — to join the Bulldogs right out of high school in 2020-21, and one of three 18-year-olds — along with Connor Kelley.
The 6-foot, 173-pound defenseman led Andover High School out of Section 7AA to the state tournament a year ago while totaling 11 goals and 32 assists in 31 games as a senior captain. The 2020 Reed Larson Award winner as the top senior defenseman in the state of Minnesota also played 11 games of junior hockey in the fall with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, being credited with three assists.
Kaiser said he spoke to all 31 NHL teams during a three-and-a-half-week span this offseason. He was ranked No. 37 among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting 2020 draft rankings while TSN’s Bob McKenzie — who relies on NHL scouts for his rankings — had him slotted No. 81 overall.
Smith, 18, finished his senior year at St. Cloud Cathedral with 27 goals and 24 assists after playing in just 17 games as a senior. He missed the first six weeks of the 2019-20 season due to injury before helping the Crusaders to a section title and third-place finish in the Minnesota Class A state tournament.
The 5-11, 185-pound Bulldogs verbal commit will play this season with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. He came into the draft ranked 169th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Biondi, 18, is the reigning Minnesota Mr. Hockey award winner after leading Hermantown within a win of another Minnesota Class A state championship in 2019-20 as a senior. He finished with 95 points via 47 goals and 48 assists in 31 games. The 95 points and 47 goals are both school records.
He also had a goal and two assists in 10 games with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL during the fall. At 6-foot, 181-pounds, Biondi said he’d spoken with at least 26 teams prior to the draft. He was ranked 64th in the NHL Central Scouting rankings and 93rd by TNS’s McKenzie.