The month of October brought a lot of joy to the Roelofs family.
First, 17-year-old Drew announced his verbal commitment to St. Thomas on Oct. 16. Less than two weeks later, he woke up to find his name on the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary List. A few days after that, his older brother Luke committed to Bemidji State, so there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the Roelofs boys in recent weeks.
The two brothers grew up playing hockey together on the outdoor rink in their backyard in Minnetrista, which is just located just west of the Twin Cities metro-area.
“Our dad built us a rink outside, so when hockey season came around we would always spend time out there,” said older brother, Luke. “My brother and I push each other a lot. I think it’s helped a ton having him by my side and I think pushing each other has helped get us to where we are right now. I can’t thank my parents enough because they’ve always been so supportive of us ever since we’ve started.”
Both boys skated with the Mound Westonka Youth Hockey Association prior to playing high school hockey at Holy Family. Although there is just under a three-year age gap between the two brothers, there’s a very good chance that they’ll end up playing each other down the road in college when the Tommies and the Beavers meet in CCHA play.
“I’m excited for that, it’s going to be awesome if we get to play each other,” Drew said. It might be a bit hard for their parents though, who will have to cheer for both teams at the same time.
“It was definitely a thought when I first committed like ‘I’m going to be playing him in a couple of years.’ He’s still my brother but at the same time he’ll be my opponent so I think it’ll be really fun for us to experience that. Both my parents will be able to watch that and experience that too and they’re both very proud of us and I just can’t thank them enough. They’ve been there since day one and they’ve always given us constant support,” Luke said.
Luke’s journey to Bemidji State
The 20-year-old Luke is a 6-foot-2 left-shot defenseman that played in four seasons with Holy Family prior to his time in the NAHL. He was moved up to the varsity team for the Fire as just a freshman and had to adjust to playing older, bigger guys quite quickly.
“I didn’t really expect to play up that year, I was sort of just expecting to play JV and get a taste of what it was like but there was an injury or something and I got thrown into the lineup,” he said about his freshman season in 2017-18. “I was playing with Brady Ziemer (who currently plays at Augustana) who was a senior and I couldn’t have been more nervous. It was eye-opening playing against those older guys that were pretty much men at that point and I was still a tiny little freshman, but it helped a lot with my development and I couldn’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for that opportunity.”
Roelofs posted three points over 17 games as a freshman and five points over 24 contests as a sophomore. He stepped up as a junior to increase his offensive production to 13 points and then netted 19 points later on as a senior. The defender was captain of the Fire in his final season of high school hockey and was second on the roster in scoring in 2020-21, which was the season that was unfortunately shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bemidji State commit Luke Roelofs (23) of Bismarck and Eli Miller (17) of North Iowa stand prepared for a faceoff. Contributed / Hope Magelky Photography
As a senior, Luke signed a tender with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL after connecting with Niko Kapetanovic, who was the director of scouting at the time and now currently serves as the assistant general manager.
Roelofs played in three games in the spring of 2021 with Bismarck to get acclimated to the level of play in the NAHL. He then spent the next three full seasons with the Bobcats and working towards earning a Division I commitment.
“In a 60-game season, it gets long, and it probably took close to half a season to learn how fast the game actually is up here but it was a good year for me that first year and I was fortunate enough to play a lot. I got to play with Jonathan Ziskie, who was our captain, and he’s out at Niagara now. He was an amazing role model for me.”
Roelofs appeared in 55 contests in his first full NAHL season and netted three goals and seven assists. He then scored 19 points the next year in 2022-23 and wore an ‘A’ with Bismarck. Now, in his final season of junior eligibility, he currently has five points so far this fall and is one of the captains of the team.
As he’s navigated the college recruiting process with a goal of becoming a Division I skater, he had hopes of staying close to home. He eventually started up talks with Bemidji State and had been in discussions with assistant coach Travis Winter over the past year or two and the Beavers eventually offered him a scholarship in the fall of 2023. He accepted that offer and made his commitment to the northern Minnesota program on Oct. 29.
Roelofs will be in familiar company when he gets to campus next fall since his current Bismarck teammate Evan Hunter is also committed to the Beavers and his former NAHL teammate Jake McLean is a freshman there now. Roelofs is thinking about studying either business or finance once he gets to Bemidji.
The 6-foot-2 skater is a defensive defenseman that can use his feet well and make a good first pass. The Bismarck Bobcats are currently tied for third-place in the NAHL Central Division standings, sitting just three points behind Austin in second-place and five points back of Minot in first. Roelofs will finish out the 2023-24 season in Bismarck before heading to Bemidji next fall.
Bemidji State commits Luke Roelofs (23) and Evan Hunter (17) stand prepared for a faceoff alongside Salvatore Collora (9) of Aberdeen.Contributed / Hope Magelky Photography
Drew’s rise to becoming an NHL prospect
Drew is a much different hockey player compared to his older brother, Luke. Drew is a 6-foot-3 forward that has really started to increase his stock as a prospect over the past calendar year.
As a freshman in high school at Holy Family, he suited up for maybe one or two varsity games in 2020-21, but mostly competed on JV that season. He officially made the Fire varsity team as a sophomore in 2021-22 and netted five assists over 22 contests that year but that season wasn’t an easy one as Roelofs was dealing was a shoulder injury at the time.
“I hurt my shoulder during the middle season so I was out for a couple of games and it was hard to get back into it after that, so it was a tough rookie varsity season for me,” he said. “After that sophomore year, I just worked extra hard in the summer and started to work out a lot more and my confidence started to grow. I also went up to Bismarck to play up in the NAHL a little bit before the [high school] season and that boosted my confidence a lot.”
Roelofs then made an immediate impact as a junior for Holy Family, netting over a point-per game in 2022-23 with 29 points in 26 games. He started to notice that St. Thomas was watching him play from time to time that year but he started to come in contact with their coaching staff this fall during competition in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
“I got a text message from Leon [Hayward], the assistant coach at St. Thomas, and he called me and we had a talk and he invited me to go see their campus. At the end of the tour, that is when they offered me,” he said. “I was really impressed by the coaches and the campus and obviously, the new rink they’re building in the next few years.”
He made his verbal commitment official on Oct. 16. Roelofs chose the Tommies after also having discussions with programs like Wisconsin, Bemidji State and Western Michigan.
The Minnetrista native is one of a large handful of skaters who have committed to St. Thomas since its start in Division I hockey. Roelofs already is familiar with Luke Garry (Minnetonka), Bobby Cowan (Edina), and Alex Lunski (Minnetonka), among others.
And the good news didn’t stop there for Drew either, as he woke up less than two weeks later to find out that his name was on the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary List as a ‘W’ ranked prospect. The list ranks skaters that have a high probability of being taken in the upcoming 2024 NHL Entry Draft. He didn’t have any idea that he would be on the list when it came out, he actually found out that morning when someone sent him a tweet that his name appeared on the document.
Drew Roelofs of Holy Family tries to kick the puck away from a Gentry Academy skater during a game on Dec. 28, 2022, at the Premier Holiday Classic in the Grove. Contributed / Jackson Baker Photography
Roelofs just recently finished up a solid performance in Elite League and earned 10 goals and eight assists over 20 games with Team TDS Transportation. The 6-foot-3 forward will be back at Holy Family this winter for his senior season. He says that his strength, speed and physicality are the main selling points of his game.
“I’m super proud of Drew, he earned it and he’s a super good player. He’s developed a ton in the past couple of years,” said Luke about his younger brother.
After his senior season, Roelofs has hopes of competing in the USHL but he has also signed a tender to play in Bismarck of the NAHL if that doesn’t work out. He is undecided on what he’ll study at St. Thomas once he gets there but is currently considering something related to business.