U.S. World Junior Spotlight: Kyle Rau

Kyle Rau -- Photo via College Hockey, Inc.

Kyle Rau — Left Wing
Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.     Birthdate: October 24, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’8″/172
Current Team: University of Minnesota (WCHA)
NHL Rights: Florida Panthers (2011, 3rd Rd., 91st overall)
National Team Experience: 2009 U.S. Under-18 Select Team (Ivan Hlinka)

Kyle Rau is the first player profiled in the U.S. World Junior Spotlight that was not part of the National Junior Evaluation Camp. That he was not included in the camp wasn’t much of a surprise. Even though Rau was a third-round pick of the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Mr. Hockey, he was still an under-sized, average skater.

However, Rau has entered the discussion with his fantastic start for the University of Minnesota, currently the No. 1-ranked team in the country. Rau has 15 points through Minnesota’s first 10 games including eight goals. He’s leading the nation’s freshmen in both of those categories. Rau has also scored a national-best four game-winning goals.

Rau has developed a bit of a reputation as a clutch performer after his dramatic overtime game-winning goal (video) in the Minnesota High School state championship last year. When his high school season was done last year, he joined the Sioux Falls Stampede and went ahead and led the team in playoff scoring with 12 points in 10 postseason contests.

He’s done all of this without really ever looking the part. He’s undersized at 5-foot-8. He’s not overly fast. He has decent, not overwhelming skills.

Those don’t sound like the qualities of the nation’s leading scorer among freshmen, does it? Well, it is. And the biggest reason? Rau is tenacious on the ice. He never quits on a play and goes to the hard areas and does the things a little guy needs to do to be effective. Rau battles, plain and simple. That’s a valuable quality and likely a big reason Dale Tallon used a third-round pick on the young forward. That tenacity is why he’ll warrant extra looks from the USA Hockey brass to potentially earn an invite to the U.S. pre-World Junior Championship camp.

Rau is a late 1992 birth year, so this would be his only crack at the World Junior Championship. To have a shot, he has to keep playing the way he has for the next month. There’s very little room for a stumble for him. He’s been consistently scoring big goals, like last weekend’s late-game stunner against North Dakota (Rau goal at about 1:03 of the video).

That all said, he’s still an undersized, average-skating forward. Dean Blais won a gold medal with a team built on speed. Is Rau’s tenacity enough to give him a shot?

The only other thing Rau really has going against him is the lack of international experience. Not to take anything away from the Minnesota State Championship, but the World Juniors is a whole new ball game. It’s a gigantic state with a ton of pressure.

The good news is, playing at Minnesota, there’s always pressure to excel. Will Rau’s few months with the Gophers be enough to prepare him for the hostile environment Team USA will be entering in December? Perhaps we’ll soon find out.

No matter his (potentially minor) deficiencies, Kyle Rau has put himself firmly in the World Junior discussion with his fantastic play in his first year with the Gophers. It looks like a comeback season for Minnesota’s hockey program and Rau is right at the center of it.

More notes on Rau:
– Two-time Minnesota State hockey state champion (2009, 2011) at Eden Prairie
– 2011 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, First Team All-State
– Appeared in 11 regular-season and 10 postseason games with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede in 2010-11. Posted 22 points in those 21 games.
– Brother Chad Rau currently skates for Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League. Chad was part of U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that won gold at the World Under-18 Championship in 2005. Also played four years at Colorado College.
Kyle Rau’s Minnesota Bio

Every week, until the U.S. National Junior Team’s pre-tournament camp roster is announced, United States of Hockey will highlight a candidate for the team. We’ll be taking a look at players from the near locks to the dark-horse candidates to the out-of-left-field possibilities.

Previous Player Spotlights:
Emerson Etem
Jack Campbell
Jon Merrill
Bill Arnold

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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