MINNEAPOLIS -- What is sure to be a youthful Minnesota Gophers roster next season got just a little bit younger on Friday. The Rink Live has learned from multiple sources that defenseman Clayton Phillips intends to transfer to another program.
Phillips, who hails from Edina, recently completed his sophomore season with the Gophers. Under NCAA transfer rules he would need to sit out for a year before he is eligible to play at another Division I program.
After parts of three seasons playing for Muskegon and Fargo in the USHL, Phillips joined the Gophers midway through the 2017-18 season, playing in 11 games for coach Don Lucia without recording a point. At least one of his former coaches felt Phillips made the jump to college hockey prematurely.
“In my opinion, this is another unfortunate example of a player entering big-time college hockey before they are physically ready and more important, mentally ready to compete against men, and handle the demands on and off the ice,” said Fargo Force general manager Cary Eades, who coached Phillips in Fargo.
Last season under new coach Bob Motzko, Phillips played in 34 of 38 Gopher games and notched 10 points. He missed three games in February after sustaining an injury in a Friday night win at Ohio State.
At 6-foot and 195 pounds, Phillips was a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 and is considered a pro prospect by many. With senior defenseman Jack Sadek graduating in May, the Gophers were already going to be younger on the blue line. Their 2019-20 roster is expected to feature youth on the back end, as three of their top prospects -- Mike Koster, Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnson -- are defensemen.
Motzko said on Friday that he has not received official word of Phillips’ intent to transfer but other sources confirmed that Phillips plans to leave the U of M in the coming weeks. Penn State and Colorado College have been mentioned a potential destinations, but Phillips has made no declaration of where he may be headed.
Muskegon holds his USHL rights, and, at 19, he has junior hockey eligibility remaining.