Many top Minnesota high school players who are entering their draft year are leaving to develop their game and accomplish their goals in the USHL.
Lakeville South forward Justin Kloos feels like he has something to accomplish by staying home.
“I wanted to come back and play my senior season with my friends, I always envisioned that.” said Kloos who is one of the preseason favorites to win Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey award this season. “We’ve come up short the last two years and I want another shot at [getting to the state tournament] so I can look back and know that I gave it my best to get to one of my goals.”
If his Minnesota Elite League play is any indicator, much of the success in accomplishing the team’s goals will be relied on Kloos’ play. Kloos lead the two-month Elite League season in goals (17) and assists (21) in 21 games.
Elite League success is nothing new to the five-foot-seven forward. Heading into his junior year last year, Kloos had 25 points in 20 games—two more points than then senior and eventual Mr. Hockey award winner Kyle Rau.
“I think it’s me trying to prove that I’m meant to be there with the best,” said Kloos. “I get really excited for those games and I try to make things happen and get noticed.”
Get noticed is exactly what Lakeville South captain has done, with various WCHA schools recruiting him during his junior year. This April, Kloos gave the University of Minnesota a verbal commitment.
The Waterloo Blackhawks, who own his USHL rights, brought him in last year after Lakeville South’s season ended with a loss to Lakeville North in the Minnesota Section 1AA Final. Kloos was impressive in his 12 games, registering three goals, all game winning, and two assists.
Kloos states the USHL stint played major dividends in developing his game.
“[The USHL] is a much bigger, faster league so I had to get used to that,” Kloos admitted. “You’re always trying to play with the best guys so you can develop as a player and it really helped me out overall.”
Kloos will likely see more time in Waterloo, whether it is a short stint again after the high school season ends, a full season next year, or both. Much of where Kloos ends up will have to do with the number of Golden Gophers who sign pro contracts. Kloos explained that he was not worried about where he will end up next year and a year in Waterloo would be fine with him.
“Right now it’s kind of a play it by ear thing, but right now the plan is to go down to Waterloo to get some experience, put on some weight, and get ready for my college career,” Kloos said.
As for right now, the sole focus for Kloos is the upcoming Lakeville South season—a season that begins Saturday against ninth ranked Edina. The early schedule does not get any easier for 14th ranked Lakeville South as they play second ranked Eagan and sixteenth ranked White Bear Lake in their first five games.
“It’s going to be a really good test for our team.” Kloos said. “We’ve had a couple of good scrimmages so we’re feeling pretty confident. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out there.”