Kyle Rau is on his way to reuniting with former roommate Nick Bjugstad.
The Gophers former senior captain signed an entry level deal with the Florida Panthers on Sunday, the team announced. Rau, a forward who was drafted by the Panthers in the 3rd round - 91st overall - in the 2011 NHL draft, will report to the Panthers AHL affiliate in San Antonio on an amateur tryout.
Rau is the second member of the Gophers six-man senior class to agree to a pro deal, after forward Seth Ambroz agreed to join the Columbus Blue Jacket's AHL affiliate yesterday.
"We are very pleased to have agreed to an entry level contract with Kyle," Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dave Tallon siad in a release. "He played extremely well at the University of Minnesota, leading the Gophers to back-to-back Big Ten regular-season championships and four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. He is another one of our young and talented prospects who is prepared to take the next step in his hockey career."
The Eden Prairie native was a two-time captain for the Gophers, and finished second on the team in points his senior year (20 goals, 21 assists). In his career, Rau tallied 164 points (67 goals, 97 assists) in 160 games, ranking him 18th in points in program history and fourth among skaters under head coach Don Lucia.
Rau came to the Gophers after winning the Minnesota Mr. Hockey award and a Minnesota state championship with Eden Prairie, and helped the Gophers to four straight regular season conference titles and four appearances in the NCAA tournament.
"Playing for the Gophers meant the world to me, and I'm very proud of all the things we accomplished as a class and as a team during my four years here," Rau said in a release. "It's an honor and a privilege to play at Minnesota and to be a captain here, and I really appreciate the opportunity I had to play with the best teammates in the country and in front of the best fans in college hockey."
Rau's accolades at Minnesota include a second team All-American selection his junior season, and two appearances on the Big Ten second team. Rau tallied 40 or more points in every one of his seasons with the Gophers and ended his career with 23 game-winning goals - the most among active NCAA skaters when his career finished.
"Kyle Rau is the kind of player you want leading your program - a fierce competitor on the ice and a hard worker off it," Lucia said in a release. "He and the senior class had an incredible run over their four years here. That's something to be very proud of, and we certainly thank Kyle for his four years here and wish him the best at the next level."
Rau's former roommate at Minnesota, Nick Bjugstad, is a member of the Florida Panthers. Bjugstad signed a six year extension with the team in December.