Jack Sadek, the Wild’s seventh-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, never knew Herb Brooks.
Sure, as a Lakeville, Minn., native, Sadek knows all about the legend of Herb Brooks. But Sadek never met Brooks. The two never spoke. Herb Brooks never knew who Jack Sadek was.
Although the two Minnesotans never crossed paths, Sadek’s presence in the Wild’s Development Camp this week at Xcel Energy Center is a tip of the cap to the Brooks legacy. Because as much as Herb Brooks is known for leading the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to gold medals in Lake Placid, his overall legacy is very much linked to his lifetime of service supporting high school hockey in his home state.
Brooks’ support of high school hockey in Minnesota can be illustrated by the countless hours he dedicated to preaching the values of education and growing the game at the grassroots level, and by his unwavering faith in homegrown players on the University of Minnesota, Olympic and NHL teams that he coached.
But as much as players like Neal Broten, Steve Christoff and others proved the merits of the ‘Brooks Model’ by successfully graduating from Minnesota high school hockey, to Minnesota college hockey, to careers with hometown NHL teams, this development path has fallen out of vogue in recent decades. It has become commonplace for top Minnesota high school players to leave their local schools early for various junior teams throughout the U.S. and Canada, with the rise in prominence of those programs making the ‘Brooks Model’ a path to the NHL that is rarely taken anymore.
“The opportunities for players and the growth of the game has expanded greatly,” NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr told Wild.com. “Every player has an option today.
The timeline of development can vary with what path a player chooses. If you’re a good player, you can get to the NHL. But sometimes there’s a perception that a player’s development would be accelerated playing more games against a different type of competition if he plays in major junior.”
Sadek, a 2015 graduate of Lakeville North High School who will enroll in the University of Minnesota this fall, will attempt to defy the rationale of scouts who think he’d develop quicker playing junior hockey and become the first player in franchise history to 100 pct. follow the ‘Brooks Model’ and wear a Wild uniform.
“There were choices,” Sadek said. “I mean, Omaha (USHL) wanted me, for sure. But our (Lakeville North) team was going to be so good, so I stayed.
Our (amount of) goals (scored) to their goals was a big difference this season. We pretty much wanted to win that state tournament. We did, so I’m satisfied with my decision.”
Scott Bjugstad, an Irondale High School graduate who used the University of Minnesota as a springboard to a 40-goal season with the North Stars, believes Sadek has a chance to successfully follow the ‘Brooks Model’ and reach the NHL. He is working with Wild prospects at Development Camp this week.
“He’s super confident on the ice and he commands respect when he’s out there,” Bjugstad said of Sadek. “Some kids at that age don’t feel that yet. You can tell he feels it.”
“Nobody else with the Wild has done it this way,” Sadek added. “I have a chance to show people it can happen. That would be the biggest honor.”