For the next four days, hockey fans will crowd St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center for what many consider to be the premier high school tournament in all of North America.
Fans will see some of the most talented high school hockey players on the continent as well. Minnesota high school hockey has always had a presence on the NHL Draft and last year was no different with four players getting drafted directly from Minnesota High Schools eligible to play in the tournament.
The chance to view the next crop of players to be drafted brings scouts to the tournament and will get their final looks at 2013 NHL Draft eligible players in preparation for June 30 in New Jersey. Scouts will also get final glimpses of the season at future premier draft eligible players.
With the exception of Connor Hurley, the 16 schools that made the tournament lack early round selections but do have players who could be potential late round steals for NHL organizations.
The tournament can be seen online at Prep45.com beginning with the Class A tournament on Wednesday.
Connor Hurley (F)-Edina
25 GP, 15, 28 A, 43 PTS
Hurley headlines the class of 2013 draft eligible players in the entire state of Minnesota as he currently projects to be a fringe first round selection. Hurley displays great on-ice vision setting up line mates Dylan Malmquist and Andy Jordahl with ease. At six-foot-one, Hurley has good size but still must get stronger. Hurley’s ability to finish is greatly under rated as well. Hurley is likely headed to Muskegon (USHL) for his senior year of high school and is committed to Notre Dame for 2014.
Meirs Moore (D)-Duluth East
28 GP, 18 G, 29 A, 47 PTS
Moore displays great puck skills and has as much puck poise as anyone at the tournament. Moore is not the most physical defenseman and his smaller stature does not help him, but he will play the body when needed. Moore is not the most dynamic player, but seemingly always finds ways to produce for a powerhouse Duluth East team. Moore is likely headed to Sioux City (USHL) next season and remains uncommitted to a Division I school.
Jake Zeleznikar (D)-Hermantown
28 GP, 11 G, 34, 45 PTS
Scouts made sure to watch the physically impressive Zeleznikar. Zeleznikar uses his six-foot-two frame in every way a big defenseman should. He wins puck battles everywhere on the ice, displays great puck protection along the walls in his own end, and has a great shot from the point. The senior’s vision with the puck is also a big asset in his game.
Neal Pionk (D)-Hermantown
27 GP, 16 G, 18 A, 34 PTS
Pionk is the second of Hermantown’s two solid defensemen eligible for this year’s draft. He is smaller listed at five-foot-11 and 165 pounds but uses his size well. Pionk has less offensive ability than Zelezinkar but does move the puck well. He’s is committed to Minnesota-Duluth but is only a junior.
Dylan Parker (G)-Duluth East
27 GP, 18-4-0, 1.64 GAA, .917 SV%
Parker has posted arguably the most impressive goaltending statistics in the state and when watching him it is easy to see why. Parker is an extremely athletic goaltender who has a very good glove hand. Parker’s rebound control is solid as well, but can give him in trouble at times. Duluth East’s early exit from the 2012 tournament as the first seed with Parker in net will leave the Hounds and Parker hungry. Look for him to have a solid tournament.
Parker Reno (D)-Edina
25 GP, 1 G, 17 A, 18 PTS
With just one goal on the season, Reno is not the flashiest of players, but does a lot of the little things right that put him into the elite defensemen category at the state level. Reno approaches the game with a defense-first mentality and is extremely reliable in his own end. The RPI-commit will use his strong skating ability to find space and move the puck out of the zone.
Jack Forbort (F)-Duluth East
28 GP, 22 G, 39 A, 61 PTS
Brother of 2010 Los Angeles first round pick Derek, Jack Forbort is one of the players that makes Duluth East go. While Jack is not blessed with Derek’s size, the undersized Forbort finds ways to make plays and centers one of the best lines in the AA tournament. Forbort wants the puck on his stick and will certainly have to be an impact player if Duluth East wants to be playing in Saturday’s title game.
Zach LaValle (F)-Hill Murray
27 GP, 24 G, 32 A, 56 PTS
LaValle has been an impact player for the Pioneers for years and became the all-time leading scorer at Hill-Murray with 56 points this season. LaValle is an extremely athletic player with lots of offensive ability. LaValle has above average skating skills and uses his six-foot frame effectively in all three areas of the ice. LaValle lead the Hill-Murray team in points at last year’s tournament with five in three games and will be looked upon to take the team one step further starting Thursday after last year’s championship game loss.
With files from Dan Shrader