Seven months ago, Hermantown’s Blake Biondi and St. Cloud’s Jack Smith were involved in a heated Minnesota Class A state tournament semifinal between the Hawks and Cathedral Crusaders at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The two friends even got into it during a second period scuffle.
Biondi and Smith’s days as adversaries are now numbered, though, as they’re set to be teammates next season at Minnesota Duluth and then again in the professional ranks after both went to the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Wednesday.
Smith — who will play juniors this season with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League — was drafted 102nd overall while Biondi — a freshman forward at UMD — went seven picks later at No. 109.
“It’s a really cool thing,” Biondi said from his home in Hermantown after UMD allowed he and fellow freshman Wyatt Kaiser — taken in the third round, No. 81 overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday — to catch the virtual draft with family. “Both of us are going to push each other, we’re going to challenge each other, but we’re also good friends. We’re going to make each other better.”
Smith said it’s always fun to play against Biondi and he’s excited for them to be teammates instead of enemies for the foreseeable future.
“That’s awesome,” Smith said of his reaction after being told by his billet mom in Sioux Falls that Biondi was joining him in Montreal. “I’m good buddies with him. We stay in touch here and there. I’m going to be playing with him the next couple years at UMD and am really excited. He’s a heck of a hockey player.”
Biondi, 18, is the reigning Minnesota Mr. Hockey award winner after finishing with 95 points via 47 goals and 48 assists in 31 games as a senior. 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 TSN’s Bob McKenzie prior to the draft.
“He’s a great offensive player,” Smith said of Biondi. “Whenever he’s on the ice, you got to know he’s out there. If you leave him hanging, he’s obviously going to bury the puck in the back of the net. He scores a lot of goals.”
Smith, 18, is a 5-11, 185-pound Bulldogs’ verbal commit who came into the draft ranked 169th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He scored 27 goals and 24 assists after playing in just 17 games as a senior at Cathedral. 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 Class A following a 6-2 loss to Hermantown in the state semis.
Smith had four goals and five assists at state, though he was held to just the one helper against the Hawks in the semis. Biondi had four goals and three assists at state, including a goal and assist against the Crusaders.
Both players also had two penalties for four minutes during the March 6 showdown, including coincidental minors in the second period — Biondi for slashing and Smith for roughing — to contribute to the 58 combined penalty minutes by the Crusaders and Hawks.
“Everybody on the ice that night was fired up and ready to go,” Biondi said. “It was a crazy game overall. (Smith) played really gritty, I played really gritty, we both played hard. It was a great hockey game on a really big stage. It was awesome. It was great competing against him and I know he feels the same.”
This story was updated at 8:38 p.m. Oct. 7 to clarify the final quote by Blake Biondi about the 2020 state semifinal. It was originally posted at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7.