Florida Panthers sign University of Minnesota forward Kyle Rau to Entry-Level Contract

A big, heartfelt, happy welcome to Kyle Rau, formerly of the University of Minnesota, and newest member of the San Antonio Rampage!

It has been fairly well established by this point that Kyle Rau is both a top-notch hockey talent, fierce competitor, and very shy, and humble young man when away from the ice. So, we don't want to embarrass our newest member of the Florida Panthers organization with too much razzmatazz or hooting, and the LBC crew has decided to go low key in announcing that Kyle has signed an entry level contract with the Cats...


So.....you had to realize we would not be able to contain ourselves. We spent four years watching Minnesota Golden Gophers games to see him play, peered hard at our televisions to see him back when he was on a United States World Juniors squad, read as many articles on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune as we could get our hands on about him, shouted down doubters who thought he would not sign here, listened to every song we could find by the Replacements, Husker Du, Prince, and the Hold Steady.... o.k., maybe I went a little far there.

Yes sir, we are awfully glad to have you, Mr. Rau. For the uninitiated, here is the most recent hockeysfuture.com write up about the four-year Golden Gopher standout:

"Rau, like Hyman, returned to his college team for his senior season. Among the leading scorers for the University of Minnesota, he is tied with Travis Boyd (Washington) for second on the team with 34 points heading into the Big Ten conference tournament. Another undersized but highly-skilled forward with speed to burn in the offensive zone, Rau will face many of the same obstacles as Grimaldi. Rau will need time at the AHL level to adjust from the college game to the pro level, but he has the potential to be an effective scorer one day."

Dale Tallon, the man who drafted Rau in the 3rd round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft had this to say about the signing (from Fox Sports Florida):

"We are very pleased to have agreed to an entry level contract with Kyle. 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."

From SBNation's college hockey blog, Nathan Wells had this to say about Kyle:

"In spite of his listed 5'8", 175 lbs stature, Rau has made the area in front of the net his own throughout his college career. It is there he thrives, regularly competing against players half a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier to win battles"

Here is the University of Minnesota write up on his signing with the Panthers. Key points from Gopher sports? Try these on:

"Rau tallied 40 or more points in all four years at the University of Minnesota. The forward scored 23 game-winning goals in his career (most among active NCAA skaters) and tallied the deciding goal to clinch the Big Ten regular-season title in back-to-back years."

Feisty, speedy, ultra-competitive, nose for the net, willingness to go to the hard areas of the ice, all are words that describe Rau, and are all things the Cats could use more of. He is a big-game player, that much is certain.

He was also Nick Bjugstad's roommate while the two attended Minnesota together, and, also like Bjugstad, was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey during his senior year of high school (at Eden Prairie High School). Unlike Bjugstad, Rau was a two-year captain at Minnesota. The two young Minnesotans reportedly remain good friends, and Rau's humble off-ice persona should gel well with a Panthers team that is young and also remarkably humble. The aforementioned Nathan Wells article had this to say about Rau's personal makeup:

"Perhaps it should be no surprise Rau has nearly 1000 followers on Twitter without a single tweet, saying "I don't really have anything to say to be honest."

For now, Rau will report to San Antonio, where the Rampage are the hottest team in the Western Conference and headed for the AHL playoffs. The team is full of young Panthers prospects like Rocco Grimaldi, Quinton Howden, Jonathan Racine, Michael Houser, Garrett Wilson, and Connor Brickley (to name but a few). He may soon be joined by fellow NCAA players Zach Hyman and Michael Matheson. In any event, Rau will be in a winning atmosphere, surrounded by kids competing to be noticed. Based on his compete level, we have every reason to expect that he will rise to the challenge and be an impact player.

A big LBC welcome to Kyle. We are hopeful you will find this underdog franchise and fanbase 100% behind you and hoping mightily for your professional success.

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