May 11, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Wheeler Leaving Minnesota

CHN Staff Report

Minnesota is losing Blake Wheeler after all.

The senior-to-be has decided to leave early to pursue a professional career.

It appeared that Phoenix, the team that selected Wheeler No. 5 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was not in a hurry to bring Wheeler out of school. But because it's been four years since being drafted, Wheeler can actually be a free agent if he doesn't sign with Phoenix after 30 days, forcing the Coyotes' hand.

Wheeler was taken when he still was in high school. He played one season in the USHL before coming to Minnesota.

The 6-foot-4 Wheeler is the 10th Minnesota player to leave school early to turn pro since the end of the 2005-2006 season.

Wheeler, who has advanced from raw freshman to leader while filling out his 6-foot-4 frame, led the Gophers' in scoring last season with 15 goals and 35 points.

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