(Editor's note: This story was updated at 12:50 p.m.)
Jack Peart has been recognized as the state of Minnesota's best high school player for 2021 and was picked by the State of Hockey's NHL team, the Minnesota Wild, on Saturday, July 24.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play for the Minnesota Wild," said Peart, who turned 18 in May. "It's the NHL team I watched growing up. Being drafted by them and to have a chance to play for them, it's been really special."
Peart, the state of Minnesota's Mr. Hockey and Reed Larson award winner, was selected in the second round (54th overall) of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Peart also became the second Minnesotan (Chaz Lucius, Grant, Winnipeg, 19th overall) selected in this year's draft. The Reed Larson Award goes to the state's top high school defenseman and Mr. Hockey to the top player.
"This whole year has been really cool for me, a lot of great experiences," Peart said.
Peart, an 18-year-old from Grand Rapids, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for St. Cloud State in the fall. He is the seventh-highest St. Cloud State player to be taken in the the draft and the second-highest player from Grand Rapids to be taken in the draft (2007, Patrick White, 25th, Vancouver).
He will join the Huskies in the fall and another Minnesota Wild draft pick, forward Sam Hentges (7th round, 2018). Hentges has played the last three seasons for the Huskies and helped them reach the NCAA Division I championship game in April. There is another St. Cloud State connection with the Wild in Matt Hendricks, who is the team's assistant director of player development. Hendricks played for St. Cloud State from 2000-04.
"I was actually just texting with Matt Hendricks and Matt was the first one to text me," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said, minutes after the pick was announced. "I just told Matt, 'I guess we're going to be seeing even more of you now.'
"It's a great organization and we have a really good relationship with them. They've been great in all our dealings with Sam Hentges as well. I'm excited that he's going to an organization like the Wild."
Peart, who is listed at listed at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, said that the way he plays the game is similar to Wild captain Jared Spurgeon (5-9, 167).
"He's a stud 'D' man and we kind of play the game somewhat similar," he said.
Besides being a captain for the Thunderhawks last season, Peart also spent time playing juniors for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.
He began the 2020-21 season with the Force, returned to Grand Rapids for the high school season and then rejoined Fargo for the end of the regular season and the playoffs. In the regular season, he played on Fargo's top defensive pairing and had one goal, 14 assists, 14 penalty minutes and was a plus 1 in 24 games. In the postseason, he had two goals, seven points, two penalty minutes and was a plus-2 in nine games, helping the Force win the Western Conference playoff title.
With Grand Rapids, he led the team in assists (24), points (35), power-play goals (5), power-play assists (7), short-handed assists (3) and tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (3). In three varsity seasons with the Thunderhawks, he had 32 goals, 88 points, 28 penalty minutes, 13 power-play goals, 17 power-play assists, 95 blocked shots and seven game-winning goals.
After the high school season, he became the third player from Grand Rapids (Aaron Miskovich, 1997; Avery Peterson, 2014) to be named Mr. Hockey. Mr. Hockey has been awarded in the state since 1985. He is the second player (Jake Bischoff, 2013) from Grand Rapids to receive the Reed Larson Award, which has been awarded since 2013.
"It shows you that he made a commitment to his high school teammates and coaches that he wanted to go back and try to get to a state tournament," Larson said of Peart, whose team reached the Section 7AA championship game. "He committed to St. Cloud State at 15 years old that meant a lot to him and he stuck to it. He's a loyal person and a good kid.
"He comes from a great family and they're all good people. When I say he's an all-around package as a hockey player and a really good person ... I think the Wild hit a home run."
After the junior season ended, Peart was one of 44 players invited by USA Hockey to take part in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., which is where he watched the draft. The showcase event is part of the process to select the national junior (20-and-under) team that will compete in the IIHF World Junior Championships, which will take place Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.
In 2019, he played for Under-17 Team USA in the Five Nations Tournament in Germany.
He went into the draft ranked No. 27 among North American skaters eligible for the draft by NHL Central Scouting. He admits that he had some nerves as the draft went on, but was excited when the Wild took him with the 22nd pick in the second round.
"My buddy always brought me to a Wild game every year, always a preseason game," Peart said. "To miss the Halloween party in school, I was bummed about that, but getting to go down and watch pro hockey was unreal. It's definitely helped my game to be able to watch pro games growing up.
"(The draft) definitely makes your heart beat, but it's a really cool experience. It's what everyone has told me — you only get this once and just enjoy the moment. I felt like I've done that and I was lucky enough to share that with my family."
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Peart is known as an intelligent, two-way defenseman with good skating and puck skills.
"He's got some of the best qualities of (defensemen) Jimmy Schuldt and Jack Ahcan," Larson said of Peart, referring to two former All-Americans for the Huskies. "I think he's a really complete defenseman. He can add offensively with his puck movement, decision making and play on the power play. He defends well. There aren't a lot of holes in his game right now in his age group.
"Obviously, college is going to push him to keep getting better in all those areas. He's going to keep getting better throughout college. Maybe he has the opportunity to be a Ryan Suter-type player, a complete defenseman who can play in any situation."
Schuldt and Ahcan have both played games in the NHL since leaving St. Cloud State, Schuldt with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019 and Ahcan with the Boston Bruins in 2021.
Highest drafted players from SCSU
2021 — Jack Peart, D, 2nd round, 54th overall, Minnesota
2017 — Ryan Poehling, F, 1st, 25th, Montreal
2016 — Dennis Cholowski, D, 1st, 20th, Detroit
2006 — Andreas Nodl, F, 2nd, 39th, Philadelphia
1997 — Brian Gaffaney, D, 2nd, 44th, Pittsburgh
1996 — Josh DeWolf, D, 2nd, 41st, New Jersey
1996 — Matt Cullen, F, 2nd, 35th, Anaheim