It’s the ‘State of Hockey’. What Friday night football games are to those fanatic pigskin fans from Texas is what high school hockey is to the state of Minnesota.
But the state’s contribution to the NHL Entry Draft this year is limited.
Every year the draft crop is subsidized by a healthy dose of the best Minnesota high school talent available, many of whom do not fully emerge from the hundreds of eligible prospects in the state until the mid-season mark.
While years past have seen a couple Minnesota High School prospects ranked as first round talents on the majority of team draft lists that is unfortunately not the case this season. It is not to say that some of these prospects will not develop into very good hockey players at the next level, only that the crop is a little on the slim pickings this season.
The 2011 crop of talent, while not nearly as talented or deep a bunch as we have seen in recent years, still possesses some quality hockey players fighting it out to be named top draft prospect in the State.
The beginning of March is a favorite time of year for many high school aged players as they shoot to play on the grandiose stage of the annual State Tournament. The Xcel Energy Center, home to the Minnesota Wild, plays host to the prestigious event that pits the elite high school teams coming out of sectional playoffs for the winner take all Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament title. The Championship game takes place March 12.
So with that FC takes a look at the few Minnesota High School prospects who are on the radar of NHL scouts for the 2011 NHL Draft.
LW MARIO LUCIA – WAYZATA
VITALS: 6’-2” / 185 LBS
STATS: 24 GP 25 G 22 A 47 PTS 14 PIM +26
NOTES: Has been seen as the top draft prospect by the majority of NHL scouts all season due to his blend of size, skill and bloodlines. Mario is the son of Minnesota Golden Gopher Head Coach Don Lucia and brother of San Jose Sharks minor league prospect Tony Lucia. Wayzata did not make the State Tournament this year.
SCOUTING REPORT: A lanky, gangly kid with room to grow physically…should play at about 210 pounds when he fills out…not overly physical but will make contact in battles for the puck…plays a hard working game but with a good amount of finesse skills…has some soft hands and can handle the puck at top speed coming down the wing as well as in traffic close to the net…skates well with some impressive first step acceleration and solid top end speed…has a quick release on his wrist shot…sees the ice well and makes strong tape-to-tape passes…strong hockey sense likely from his bloodlines.
COACH QUOTE, Carl Davis Wayzata: “Mario has great hands, great instincts, and is a pure goal scorer. He is always dangerous when he has the puck on his stick because of his tremendous play making abilities. His size and over-all skills make him a big threat every time he is on the ice. Mario is a very hard worker in developing his game both on and off the ice. He is very dedicated in improving his physical strength, speed and over-all skill. He is a dedicated athlete with a lot of potential.”
DRAFT WATCH: First round draft pick candidate. Could go anywhere from 25 to 45 overall because of the depth of this draft.
C JOE LABATE – HOLY ANGELS
VITALS: 6’-4” / 180 LBS
STATS: 25 GP 27 G 22 A 49 PTS 42 PIM +27
NOTES: A fast riser this year on most NHL scouts radars after recovering from injury to start the season as he has the size and skill that NHL teams love. His team, the Holy Angel Stars, were eliminated by Prior Lake in the 2011 sectional playoffs despite Labate potting two goals and an assist in the lone section 2AA playoff game. He will attend Wisconsin on a full scholarship next fall.
SCOUTING REPORT: A very tall and skinny kid but has high potential as a skilled power centre…plays with a bit of an edge and willingness to get physical…has a quick stick and can beat defenders one-on-one or bull through them en route to the net…has a very good one-timer that is both heavy and quick off his stick from the slot…has good hockey sense and reads the play well…needs to get a lot strong and most likely will before he gets to the next level…has many excited at what he could be once full developed.
DRAFT WATCH: Second round draft pick candidate. An NHL team could jump up and take him in the tail end of the first or early in the second but his value is somewhere around the 55-75 spot.
D MAX EVERSON – EDINA
VITALS: 6’-0.5” / 180 LBS
STATS: 22 GP 4 G 17 A 21 PTS 20 PIM +4
NOTES: The team captain of the Edina Hornets suffered a broken wrist late in the year and was questionable for the sectional playoffs as most thought he would need surgery to repair the injury. It turned out he had only dislocated his wrist and was back in time to help Edina get to the State Tournament in Saint Paul. Max will join brother Marshall at Harvard playing for Crimson next fall.
SCOUTING REPORT: An average sized two-way defender…he skates well with nice overall mobility…quick on his transition from defense to offense is his biggest weapon…sees the ice well and gets the puck to his forwards…has a nice shot that is both hard and accurate…plays the point on the PP…uses a quick stick and good gaps to close off attackers…some question his upside as he is not overly creative with the puck…not the strongest guy and will need to add much strength before moving on to the next level.
DRAFT WATCH: Third round draft pick candidate. Some scouts question whether his style of play and size will translate to anything more than a fringe NHL’er which could drop his stock down to the 100+ pick range.
C STEVEN FOGARTY – EDINA
VITALS: 6’-2.5” / 195 LBS
STATS: 24 GP 23 G 17 A 40 PTS 12 PIM +14
NOTES: Fogarty was the powerhouse Edina Hornets hockey team leading scorer this season. He committed to Notre Dame University last fall which will allow him to fill out his slender frame up to four years after he is drafted in preparation for the next level.
SCOUTING REPORT: A big bullish forward at this level who uses his size to his advantage…willing to go to the net and take abuse from opposing defenders…strong along the wall and in puck battles…shows good hands especially in close to the net…needs work on his stride as he skates with lumbering feet but has good hockey sense and seems to be where he needs to be on time…aware of his defensive responsibilities and takes him man consistently…plenty of pro potential.
DRAFT WATCH: Fourth-fifth round draft pick candidate. He could go even higher however somewhere in the third round as some scouts really like his size and developing skill package and may step up to argue his case at their draft able.
D MIKE REILLY – SHATTUCK ST.MARY’S PREP
VITALS: 5’-10.5” / 150 LBS
STATS: 44 GP 10 G 28 A 38 PTS 26 PIM
NOTES: Reilly is thought of rather highly in some scouting circles and most are hoping he can fill out at the College level. Has two twin brothers playing in the United States Hockey League and his father was once drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. He will play his college hockey at the University of Minnesota.
SCOUTING REPORT: Offensively creative and instinctive defender…has great vision and distributes the puck very well… carries the puck up ice and shows patience in waiting for options to come…shot is deceptively hard and accurate…uses sound positioning while defending his zone…size is a concern as he is thinner than thin and some kids just don’t hold weight.
COACH QUOTE, Tom Ward: “Mike is a very gifted skillful defenseman. He has grown a lot in the past year, when he fills out he will be a physical player. He has spent a lot of time rounding out his game on the defensive side of the puck, and is committed to being a good defender.”
DRAFT WATCH: Fourth-fifth round draft pick candidate. Mike has some supporters in high places so a pick in the third round even is not out of the question but his value lies somewhere between the fourth and fifth round.
D NICK SEELER – EDEN PRAIRIE
VITALS: 6’-0” / 175 LBS
STATS: 24 GP 7 G 29 A 36 PTS 42 PIM +9
NOTES: Came into his sophomore season at Eden Prairie six inches and 40 pounds lighter than he is today, most are assuming he still has some growth left in him. Seeler will be playing his Division I college hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha but is planning to play a year for the Muskegon Lumberjack’s of the USHL first.
SCOUTING REPORT: Two-way mobile defenseman…skates real well with good transitions and pivots…just average sized but will play anyway you want…quick transitions offensively…sound one-one-one defensively…can get a little nasty when things get physical…gets his stick and body in lanes effectively…shows smarts and some good natural instincts from the backend.
COACH QUOTE, Lee Smith: “He’s got a great temperament, he plays hard nosed; He is going to stick up for his teammates again and again.”
DRAFT WATCH: Fifth-sixth round draft pick candidate. He is one prospect who might be a little too unpolished right now coming out of high school but has some good raw abilities and could be a high end free agent after a few years of college hockey.
C KYLE RAU – EDEN PRAIRIE
VITALS: 5’-09” / 165 LBS
STATS: 25 GP 33 G 36 A 69 PTS 16 PIM +24
NOTES: The frontrunner for the Mr. Hockey award this season in many observers’ eyes as he has been the straw that has stirred the drink in Eden Prairie. His offensive skills caused many an opposing head coach to change their game plans and key on the diminutive dynamo.
SCOUTING REPORT: A fast skating, hard working skilled forward…has the awareness, skill level and work rate to play on the first line or in a checking role…skates very well with great agile feet and overall quickness…is always involved on the ice and despite lacking considerable strength is willing to engage in battles…gets knocked down but is quick to bounce back up…sees the ice so well and makes dynamic passes…has very good hands and can finish as well.
COACH QUOTE, Lee Smith: “Kyle is a dynamic two way center, excellent playmaker and finisher, extremely strong on his skates, makes everyone on his team better by his leading abilities.”
DRAFT WATCH: Late round draft pick candidate. Kyle has been hyped for a few years and he does have the skill to carve out a career in pro hockey. Size is a major concern however and he is about 50/50 whether he hears his name called on draft day or will need to wait until after college for free agency.
C TONY CAMERANESI – WAYZATA
VITALS: 5’-09” / 160 LBS
STATS: 25 GP 15 G 39 A 54 PTS 26 PIM +29
NOTES: Played on the same line and team as Mario Lucia in Wayzata and just missed the State Tournament after being ousted in the 6AA Sectional Final by Kyle Rau’s Eden Prairie squad. Cameranesi, a team captain with Wayzata, is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for next fall.
SCOUTING REPORT: Speed, speed and more speed…the best skater in the State in the eyes of many scouts…his feet are always in motion…has a great on-ice awareness and is always creating scoring chances for himself and his line mates…is an accomplished playmaker and can distribute the puck with pin-point accuracy…has a nice wrist shot that allows him to finish as well…needs to add considerable strength to his small frame.
COACH QUOTE, Carl Davis : “Tony is a dynamic play maker with tremendous speed and skating ability. What separates him from most players is how hard he competes both with and with out the puck. He never takes a day off and gives absolutely 100% every shift. His work habits have allowed him to dominate the game at every level he has played.”
DRAFT WATCH: Late round draft pick candidate. He will be at the tail end of a few NHL draft lists as he still looks like he could grow a bit which is his most glaring weakness especially with the time he will have with the Bulldogs.
D NEAL GOFF – STILLWATER HS
VITALS: 6’-5” / 185 LBS
STATS: 25 GP 3 G 8 A 11 PTS 26 PIM +7
NOTES: The big guy, while he looks like a gangly uncoordinated kid trying to grow into his body, is also an accomplished track and field star for Stillwater. His USHL rights are owned by the Fargo Force and he could play a year there before moving on to Division I college hockey. The youngest draft eligible as his birthday falls right on the cut off day for the 2011 draft, one day later and he would be 2012 eligible.
SCOUTING REPORT: A strong shutdown defender…uses his reach and mobility to close off lanes and box out would be attackers…shows fast footwork and the ability to close gaps quickly…reads the developing play and is quick to react…surprisingly good all-encompassing mobility especially for his size…his stride could still use some technical coaching due to some unnecessary movements…needs to pack on a good 20-30 pounds of muscle before college…has very limited offensive upside.
COACH QUOTE, Phil Housley: “There’s so much upside to his game and he really wants to learn.”
DRAFT WATCH: Mid-to-late round draft pick candidate. Goff is pretty new to the limelight for draft prospects but under ex-NHL defenseman Phil Housley his development can go nowhere but up.
C BEN BAHE – HILL-MURRAY HS
VITALS: 5’-10” / 175 LBS
STATS: 25 GP 26 G 29 A 55 PTS 14 PIM +40
NOTES: Played in a division against weaker high school competition and did not have to face any of the bigger prospects in the State which explains his stat totals.
SCOUTING REPORT: A skilled playmaking centre that has great on-ice vision and the prerequisite darting elusiveness and quick feet for someone his size…his smarts, anticipation and in game reads are impressive as he is a step ahead of almost all his high school peers…his passing ability is his best asset…needs to add strength, work on his shot and dedication to his end.
COACH QUOTE, Bill Lechner: “I have had Ben on Varsity for three years now. Ben is one of those kids that lives his talents, does not talk much, but goes out every day and works very hard at improving his game. He is average size, but with his skill set of great hands, explosive speed, strong on his skates, and vision of the game he is very worthy of being a top player in Minnesota this year. Ben also comes from a very level headed family which keeps him positively grounded.”
DRAFT WATCH: Late round draft pick candidate. Bahe’s skill and offensive ability make him a tantalizing late round option for an NHL team that is looking to invest in a long-term project. There is just as much chance that Ben goes undrafted and waits for college free agency.
Other high school players who have some pro upside include scoring winger Jonny Brodzinski of Blaine HS. His shot is a nice weapon but he needs to work on skating, as he is slow even at the high school level. Forward Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, who has all the tools but lacks size and the will to compete on a consistent basis.
Pint sized Shattuck St. Mary’s forward Tanner Sorenson, a future Michigan State Spartan, could receive some interest as a free agent in a few years, especially if he can add some size and strength. His head coach Tom Ward had this to say about him: “Skillful player, has really rounded out his game, he is an effective player at both ends of the rink. Class president here at Shattuck-St.Mary’s. Very out going, gregarious person, has leadership skills. Father is a high school hockey coach in Anchorage, Tanner’s home town.”
Dan Stewart is the scouting director of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!