Rutger McGroarty

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Rutger McGroarty won’t make a decision on his NHL future today. He’s focused on trying to win an NCAA championship first.

Ideally, the 20-year-old forward won’t be making the call on whether to sign an entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets or return to the University of Michigan for his junior year until after the NCAA Division I men’s championship game Saturday, a game he hopes the Wolverines will be playing in.

“Hopefully, selfishly for this team, hopefully we can delay the decision as long as possible,” McGroarty said following team practice at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday. Michigan faces Boston College in the second national semifinal at 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. Boston University plays the University of Denver at 5 p.m. ET.

The Jets selected McGroarty in the first round (No. 14) of the 2022 NHL Draft. He attended his first development camp with Winnipeg last July after getting 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 39 games as a freshman at Michigan.

This season, McGroarty is second on Michigan with 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 35 games and ranks seventh among all NCAA Division I players in points per game (1.49), impressive numbers considering he missed nearly four weeks after breaking several ribs and puncturing his lung on Nov. 17.

After returning, McGroarty was the captain for the United States when it won the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in January, finishing the tournament with nine points (five goals, four assists) in seven games.

“I learned more from that injury than I could have ever imagined,” McGroarty said. “I feel like just seeing other people in the hospital, just not taking anything for granted and just being able to play hockey every day. I mean, hockey is a sport that we all love. So that’s the No. 1 thing that stands out to me.

“And then on the ice, I’ve been a lot more consistent this year. In the NHL, you play 82 games, so you’ve got to be consistent every night. And then just continuing to grow as a hockey player. I mean, nothing’s really changed. I feel like I’m the same player. I know what kind of player I am and I’m just more mature, more consistent, smarter. I feel like everything’s just kind of gotten a little bit better.”

Winnipeg brass has been vocal about wanting to have McGroarty (6-foot, 200 pounds) on its roster next season, with ongoing discussions and check-ins with him once or twice per week since he was drafted.

McGroarty said that although he can sense the excitement from the Jets, they have not pushed him to make a decision while he aims to help Michigan to its first championship since 1998.

“As the second half (of the season) has kind of ramped up, I’ve gotten a couple more texts, but they’ve been very respectful with the playoff push we’re making,” McGroarty said. “They’ve had a talk with my agent but nothing crazy. We haven’t had the serious talk yet. But yeah, they’ve been very respectful and it’s been great.”

For now, McGroarty is laser focused on the Frozen Four and bringing a title to Michigan -- before possibly joining the NHL.

“We'll see,” he said with a smile.

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