It took Phil Kessel a fair amount of time to choose which college he would play hockey for. In the end, he picked Minnesota. And now, just months after a successful freshman season, Kessel again is taking his time choosing where he’ll play hockey next season.
Only this time, he’s trying to decide whether to make the jump to the NHL by signing a contract with the Boston Bruins, the team that selected him fifth overall in last month’s NHL Entry Draft.
“The conversations with the people at Boston have been ongoing,” said Kessel’s father, Phil Sr., in a telephone interview. “So there’s no new conversation or anything that’s said that he is going back to school or leaving school.”
This goes against published reports last week that had Kessel telling coaches he was set to return to Minnesota for his sophomore season.
“I don’t think that’s anything different than he’s ever said before,” Kessel’s father said. “I think you assume you’re going to go back to school until somebody comes to you or the team that holds your rights comes to you and says, ‘Here’s what we’d really like you to do and this is what we’re offering you.’ “
Kessel’s adviser, Wade Arnott of Newport Sports Management of Mississauga, Ontario – an organization that represents NHL stars such as Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin and Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla – said there have been some preliminary discussions with Boston but that a decision is not imminent.
He also said Boston has expressed an interest in Kessel playing with them next season.
That might be a good thing because, according to Kessel’s father, his son would rather return to Minnesota then spend time playing in the American Hockey League – the NHL’s minor league.
“He’s not going to sign a contract and go play in the American Hockey League,” Kessel Sr. said. “If they want him, he’s going to go play in the NHL. If they don’t think he’s ready for that and they’d like him to develop further, that’s fine, too.”
Kessel’s father also said that while his son’s ultimate goal is to play in the NHL, returning to play for the Gophers for another year wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.
“He enjoys playing at Minnesota,” his father said. “He enjoys his teammates and the fans and everything in Minnesota.”
If Kessel – who racked up 18 goals and 33 assists (51 points) in 39 games last season – were to join the Bruins next season, he would be joining a team that looks to be improved from last year’s squad, which finished 29-37-16.
Boston landed a pair of big-name free agents in defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward Marc Savard and pegged former Detroit Red Wings coach Dave Lewis to be its new head coach.
Arnott said Boston has been very impressive this offseason in terms of free agent signings, coaching decisions and front office moves, but that he wasn’t sure whether it is fair to say that will affect Kessel’s situation.