Ben Meyers bound for Colorado after signing free-agent pact with Avalanche
The Gophers co-captain and Big Ten most valuable player last season was one of the most sought-after undrafted players in college this season, and joins a Minnesota Wild division rival.
DENVER – Just a few days after the NCAA championship trophy arrived on the Front Range, college hockey’s most coveted free agent is headed for the Mile High City as well. Minnesota Gophers captain Ben Meyers, the Big Ten’s top player last season, signed a two-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, and is expected to make his NHL debut soon.
He will not be eligible to skate in the playoffs for Colorado, which currently leads the Western Conference and is one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
According to published reports, Meyers can burn one year of the contract if he plays in any of Colorado’s remaining regular season games.
As a junior for the Gophers, the Delano, Minnesota, native went on a tear despite battling an injury in November and missing five games while playing in the Winter Olympics in February. He led the team with 17 goals and 24 assists in 34 games, and was one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which was won by Minnesota State Mankato goalie Dryden McKay.
"I'm so proud of how it's all worked out for him. We're sure lucky that he came with us and trusted us," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "He's one of the hardest-working players that I've been around ... I know it was a really difficult decision because he had so many options."
Meyers was reportedly considering offers from the Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs and several other teams before picking Colorado.
Entering college after successful runs with Delano High School and with the USHL’s Fargo Force, Meyers quickly earned a reputation as a relentless worker on and off the ice.
“Every day in practice he would push me because of how hard he went and the determination he has to get better,” said Sammy Walker, a Gophers co-captain with Meyers this season. “I think that helped me as a player for sure.”
When the Olympics ended, Meyers and Gophers teammates Brock Faber and Matthew Knies endured a 40 hours of travel to get to State College, Pennsylvania, for a come-from-behind win versus Penn State. Meyers had three assists in the game. In March, he scored perhaps the team’s biggest goal of the season, with the overtime winner versus UMass in a regional first-rounder where the Gophers trailed 2-0 and 3-1.
“That was a huge goal, and who better to get it,” Walker said. “He was huge for us all season, and especially that goal for sure. You could always count on him to score the big goal. He was so good for us all year.”
Meyers joins a loaded Avalanche roster that includes Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon, 2019 Hobey winner Cale Makar, Gabriel Lendeskog, former Gophers star defenseman Erik Johnson and rookie forward Sampo Ranta, who was Meyers' teammate for two seasons with the Gophers.