St. Cloud, MN – In terms of hockey progression, Jack Peart has been on an accelerated fast-track since youth hockey. Having turned 18 years old in the past month, the St. Cloud State University freshman has yet another challenge ahead of him as he joins the national runner-up Huskies for the 2021-22 season.
I had a conversation with Peart on June 9 to talk about his recruitment by SCSU, his hectic 2020-21 season, the upcoming NHL entry draft, and his future with the Huskies:
A Grand Rapids Minnesota Product
Born and raised in hockey tradition-rich Grand Rapids, MN Peart comes from an athletic and hockey-focused family with the exception of his mother, Lisa who was a basketball player. “My mom says I get my athleticism from her and my dad never disagrees but my dad thinks it from him. It’s kind of funny,” said Peart. His father Todd, was a member of the Grand Rapids High School team that played in the 1988 State High School hockey tourney, was an All-American at Itasca Community College, and an assistant hockey coach at Grand Rapids High School. Older sisters Maddi and Sadie have played hockey as well with Maddi, an all-area defenseman at Grand Rapids/Greenway High School logging 100 games, and Sadie a Miss Hockey Finalist with a school-record 155 assists and 253 points. She recently completed her second season at Quinnipiac University.
Jack’s skills were developed in Grand Rapids youth hockey, competing in the Minnesota High-Performance U14 League and further honed via an early connection to former SCSU players Billy Hengen and Joe Jensen who coached him playing for the Minnesota Blades AAA team, a developmental off-season program for exceptional players.
Again, accelerating the competition he would play against, Peart competed in the Minnesota High School Elite League at age 15 and became a regular on the Grand Rapids varsity team that same year notching 14 points in 21 games.
The following season in 2019-20 Peart was named captain at age 16. “I wasn’t expecting to be named captain,” said Peart. “But, it was cool to be named a leader for the team and to help them through the year. In Grand Rapids, the previous captains, players, and coaches all have a vote for the captain.” He had an exceptional season, leading the team in points with 27 in 25 games including 13 goals while only incurring 10 penalty minutes. As a result, Peart was named All-Iron Range Boys Hockey Player of the Year.
Peart had previously been selected as the #1 pick and 7th overall by the Fargo Force in the May 2019 USHL Phase I Draft. Following the completion of the 2019-20 high school season, he played in five games for the Force posting 2 points in 4 games.
A Disjointed 2020-21 Hockey Season
With the COVID pandemic rearing its head and the Minnesota state high school hockey season in limbo in the fall of 2020, Peart opted to join the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, playing in 16 games and posting 11 assists. Ultimately, the high school season commenced in January and Peart rejoined the team leading them to a 15-2-1 season record and the Section 7AA championship game which ended in a disappointing loss on home ice to Andover High School by a 3-2 score thwarting a trip to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.
“In any given year, it would have been an easy choice to return to high school,” said Peart. “But, with COVID it was a more difficult decision because we didn’t know if there was going to be a high school season. When we learned there would be a season and state tournament I wanted to go back, rejoin my teammates and play with the team.”
“The Andover loss was really tough,” said Peart. “We had a good team coming back with some older guys and juniors that stepped up. It was sad to see our season end like that on home ice but it was good to see Grand Rapids hockey back on the map.”
Another productive high school season saw Peart leading the squad with 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points including 5 power-play goals in just 18 games. His success led to being named All-Iron Range Boys Hockey Player of the Year, First Team All-State, the Reed Larson Award for the state’s top senior defenseman and winning the ultimate Minnesota state high school individual award, the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award on April 5, 2021.
” You never think you are going to win but just being named a Mr. Hockey finalist was awesome and I was lucky enough to win it,” said Peart. “It was very special to go down there and accept the award. Even without the award, I would not have changed anything about returning to play at Grand Rapids.”
Peart once again returned to the Fargo Force for the remainder of the USHL season posting 1 goal and 3 assists in 8 games and having an outstanding postseason, producing 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points in 9 games as the Force advanced to the Clark Cup finals vs the Chicago Steel. However, the Force lost the series by a 3-1 margin to end the season. Peart was honored again by his team as the Fargo Force Rookie of the Year.
“We played well the first game but they adjusted and won the next three. We knew they were going to be a very talented team and we’d have to play our best to beat them,” said Peart.
By the time I caught up with Peart on June 9th, he was already in St. Cloud skating with his future SCSU teammates for 10 days before getting a break until August 9th when he’ll once again return to campus.
A Commitment to St. Cloud State Hockey
Peart was right out of bantam hockey and just 15 years old when he made his commitment to play at St. Cloud State. He signed his National Letter of Intent two years later in November of 2020. Obviously, there were other distractions and outside influences to deal with during those two years as he was gaining notoriety but he held firm in his commitment to the Huskies.
“I committed to Brett Larson and it was a combination of things,” explained Peart. ” First, Brett is a great coach and you could see that when he was at UMD. I got to know him during the recruiting process and got to know what a great guy he is and I like his coaching style. I did eventually get to visit St. Cloud State and got to see the rink and the weight room. It’s an awesome hockey building and with the new weight room, it is top-notch. I attended a couple of hockey games at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and the atmosphere was great. I’m looking forward to playing there and it’s going to be fun.”
The NHL Entry Draft
The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is on July 23 and 24th and it’s a certainty that Jack Peart will be selected. Currently ranked 27th by Central Scouting for North American skaters, there’s a high probability he could be a second-round selection.
The superlatives are numerous but may have best been summed up by his Fargo Force coach:
“Jack is the smartest player and defenseman we’ve had since this staff has been here. His hockey sense and anticipation are definitely strengths for him, which projecting long-term is going to allow him to play as a medium-sized defenseman.” – Fargo coach Pierre-Paul Lamoureux.
When asked about the draft, Peart takes a humble approach in describing things. “The rankings are for the NHL people. Players are drafted in different positions than what they were ranked so although I pay attention to it there’s not much I can do about it. Just being drafted will be special. I’m sure my family and I will get together and watch the draft and we’ll see what happens.”
He is aware however that the game has changed and players that he has patterned his play after like Duncan Keith or players like Cale Makar and Adam Fox are more prevalent in today’s NHL. “The game has definitely changed,” said Peart. You don’t have to be that 6’3″ or 6’4″ defenseman anymore that just plays defense. You can be a smaller-sized defenseman that plays both offense and defense.”
For those fans familiar with St.Cloud State University hockey, Peart reminds me of a similar-sized former defenseman Ethan Prow who played for the Huskies from 2012 to 2016. That’s a compliment considering Prow ended up being a team captain, NCHC First Team All-Star, NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman, NCHC Best Defenseman, NCHC Player of the Year, All-American, and Hobey Baker Finalist.
On to St. Cloud State University
The next challenge for Peart is joining St. Cloud State University and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a player right out of high school. He’ll be the youngest player on the roster. However, that is nothing new for Peart who has accelerated his play to higher levels of competition as long as he has been playing the game.
Peart will join a long list of exemplary defensemen at St. Cloud State including Brett Hedican, Lenny Esau, Duvie Westcott, Nick Jensen, Ethan Prow, Kevin Gravel, Jimmy Schuldt, and Jack Ahcan, and others who have had successful collegiate and professional careers.
He’ll join an untypically small group of players that make up the freshman class in 2021-22. In addition to Peart, the class includes Grand Forks native and forward Mason Salquist and defenseman, Josh Luedtke of Minnetonka, MN. He knows both players quite well and has nothing but praise for his fellow first-year teammates.
In particular, Peart is very familiar with the capabilities of Salquist who was a teammate in the USHL with the Fargo Force. “He’s a great player, ” described Peart. “He’s a smaller guy but he’s not afraid to stick his nose into things. He provides a lot of talent in the offensive zone and you can trust him in the defensive zone. He can close the gap quickly and play the body. He’s a very strong guy and his game will correlate to the college game really well.”
Defenseman, Luedtke who along with Peart could arguably be the best freshman tandem in college hockey adds a lot of skill and speed. “His speed is really good and his skill in the offensive zone passing or shooting is top-notch,” says Peart.
Forever humble despite all his accomplishments thus far in hockey, he’s simply excited to begin his collegiate career at St. Cloud State University. “I know the team has a lot of guys returning this year and it will be fun to compete for a spot and play in some games.”
As he’s always done, Jack Peart will accept the challenge.