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Kloos, Mayhew Hope to Build on First Impressions

Four-year collegians preparing for first full season of pro hockey

by Brian Halverson / Special to Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- The end of every college hockey season leaves in its wake a litany of senior players contemplating not only their final time donning their school's colors but the finale of a competitive playing career.

But it also marks a fresh start for the few four-year players who are afforded the opportunity to continue pursuing their National Hockey League dream within days of saying goodbye to campus life.

Two such players, Minnesota's Justin Kloos and Ferris State's Gerald Mayhew, jumped at the chance to dip their toes into pro hockey waters this past spring with the Iowa Wild and each is excited for the chance to solidify his future with the Wild organization at this week's developmental camp.

"Obviously, coming here this year you want to make a good impression and start to gain (the coaching staff's) confidence in your game," said Kloos, who is attending his second Wild development camp after participating with San Jose in 2015. "I'll be able to work with them on the ice and be able to gain some confidence going into training camp to make sure they realize I'm here and I want to push for a spot."

Video: 2017 Development Camp: Justin Kloos

Kloos, a Lakeville native, garnered Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award in 2012 after leading the state in scoring with 103 points in 31 games during his senior season at Lakeville South High School. Despite an offer to leave high school after his junior year to play for the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks, Kloos opted to return and led the Cougars to a third-place finish at the state tournament.

It's a decision Mayhew can easily understand.

Mayhew, a Michigan Mr. Hockey winner, declined an offer to join the Detroit Compuware AAA team and led Wyandotte-Roosevelt High School to its first-ever state title of any kind as a senior in 2011.

This week's camp is Mayhew's first with the WIld after participating in what he said was a much shorter New York Islanders' camp a year ago.

"I'm kind of excited to see how different it is and how much more I can learn," Mayhew said. "I'm just excited for the coaching staff to teach me some new things."

Mayhew led the Bulldogs to two NCAA Final Eight appearances and a WCHA regular-season and playoff championship in four seasons in Big Rapids, Michigan. 

He finished his collegiate career with 52 goals and 119 points in 150 games, including a team-leading 35 points in 33 as a senior. Shortly after he wrapped up his college career with a playoff loss to Bowling Green, Mayhew signed an Amateur Tryout Agreement (ATO) with Iowa.

"It was kind of a dream come true," he said. "I waited a week because I was a little anxious after my college season ended. I had heard great things about (coach Derek Lalonde) and the staff and all the guys so they welcomed me pretty well when I got there. It felt like I knew them forever."

Mayhew played 17 games for the Wild and Lalonde, a former Ferris State assistant from 2003-2006, and scored six goals among his seven points.

"My first couple of games I was a little timid, didn't know what to expect, and then as the games went on I felt a lot more comfortable," Mayhew said. "It's a different game than college; it's more structured, faster, stronger."

Kloos, who racked up 150 points in 155 games in four seasons as a Gopher and did not miss a game during his collegiate career, saw the curtain drop on his college days after an NCAA tournament loss to Notre Dame. 

Days later, the two-time Gopher captain inked a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild starting with the 2017-18 season and finished the season on an ATO with Iowa, scoring a goal in nine games.

He received a quick introduction to the grind of the pro hockey schedule.

"I think I had my first 3-in-3 so I had a Friday-Saturday-Sunday kind of deal and I saw by Sunday you're really feeling it," Kloos said. "You're tired, you're probably low on sleep, but it's your job. You've got you find a way to be ready and play hard."

Although Kloos and Mayhew are not quite ready to lace up their skates for the big club yet, each player has a history of producing on the rink they hope to someday call home. 

In 16 career high school, North Star Cup, Big Ten and NCAA tournament games, Kloos has compiled 16 points (9-7=16) at Xcel Energy Center since 2012. Mayhew, meanwhile, has five points (2-3=5) in just three combined WCHA and NCAA tournament games in St. Paul.

Wild Director of Player Development, Brad Bombardir said the team is excited about the future of both players.

"Both of them came down at the end of the season in Iowa and they actually had a very positive impact on our lineup," Bombardir said. "I know Mayhew came in and scored some big goals for us. He's a sneaky player actually because you always find that he gets the puck on his stick right in the good spots of the ice where he has a good scoring opportunity."

Bombardir raved about Kloos' intelligence and elusiveness offensively but Kloos said defensive positioning, ironically, was the part of his game where he felt like he made the biggest strides in his brief pro hockey stint.

"I think throughout my few games down there I realized you're dealing with bigger players and probably a little quicker corner players so you need to be in the right spot or they're going to get out of there and make you pay," Kloos said. "That's something, especially as a center currently, I've got to be very accountable for."

It is a statement that is sure to please his new employers.

"Obviously he's offensive, he's more than a point a game guy in college, but at the pro level you don't know how that's going to translate," Bombardir said.

"Both of them are going to be great additions for us for sure, especially down there."

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