Gophers Legend May End His Incredible NHL Career to Move on to a New Challenge

In recent years, the Minnesota Gophers have been a dominant force in college hockey, with so many graduates getting picked up in the early rounds of the NHL Draft and signed to professional teams. Just last year, the University of Minnesota lost, arguably, the best player in college, Logan Cooley, who joined fellow former Gophers Nick Bjugstad and Travis Boyd in Arizona.

However, it’s not all about top prospects for the Gophers, with the team having produced several greats for the league. One of those is, without a doubt, Phil Kessel. An absurdly decorated skater who put up great numbers for UMN in his prospect days, he might just be bowing out of the NHL this summer, with an eye on a brand-new challenge.

Phil Kessel’s imperious NHL legacy

Still only 36 years old, the right-wing sniper cut his teeth in the US youth hockey ranks before getting drafted fifth overall by the Boston Bruins. As a Gopher, Kessel scored 18 goals and 51 points in 39 NCAA games in between Team USA duties – both junior and senior. Since joining the big leagues, he’s amassed 413 goals and 992 points in 1286 games.

To achieve this incredible feat, Kessel had to overcome cancer during his rookie season, which ended with 29 points in 70 games with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, and set the NHL ironman record at over 1,000 consecutive games played. He played for the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Arizona Coyotes, and finally the Vegas Golden Knights.

Arguably, he’d have had the most fun with the Pens and in Vegas. In 2016 and 2017, he joined all-time greats Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in winning the Stanley Cup, and after a few seasons in the ponderous Coyotes ranks, he earned a move to the thrilling Golden Knights. Now, of course, Vegas is well-known for its gambling games. You’ve got the iconic casinos and even sweepstake casinos. According to this site, one of the best sweepstake casinos going is Wow Vegas Casino, which fully embraces that all-out entertainment ethos of Sin City. Naturally, the Veteran would have been able to enjoy everything Las Vegas had to offer in his one season there, but the best times would have come after they won the Stanley Cup in 2023. Kessel now boasts more Stanley Cup triumphs than any other former Gopher.

A new challenge for Kessel

Being unable to come to a contract agreement with the Vancouver Canucks in late March, per this report, Kessel didn’t feature in the NHL at all, but his ironman run continues if he laces up his skates again. Importantly, as a notorious scorer, it seems likely that Kessel would want a chance to breach the 1,000-point mark before he calls time on his superb NHL career.

However, a grand opportunity looks to be on the horizon. An upstart ice hockey league is forming in North America, and he could be one of its first star players. Major League Hockey is looking to get underway this fall, but it won’t be going directly head-to-head with the NHL. Instead, MLH will strictly be a three-on-three professional league, which essentially pivots the NHL’s regular season overtime rules into full events.

An incredibly skilful player to this day, Kessel looks custom-made for the MLH for his playing style, name recognition, and for what he can offer as a veteran of professional hockey to the younger players who join. So, even if he doesn’t come back to the NHL in 2024/25, we could still see the former Gopher in high-octane action in the MLH.

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