The Minnesota State High School Tournament, which can serve as a last second push for a 2012 draft eligible’s stock, also marks the jumping off point for some of the 2013 eligibles as well.
As 2012’s are hoping a strong performance can push one final time to get noticed, those slated to get drafted in 16 months time can use the event to put their name on the map.
And with this year’s event lacking in top-end depth, what better time for 2013’s to make a name for themselves.
Despite being a junior, Maple Grove defenseman Jordan Gross is the best offensive defenseman in the state. Gross, who has 49 points in 28 games this season, was the only 2013 eligible to be named to the Star Tribune’s All-Metro team this past week. The odds are high that this will be the last high school games Gross will play and will join the Green Bay Gamblers for his draft year. The Gamblers, who will lose two defensemen with similar skill-sets in Andy Welinski and Jordan Schmaltz, took Gross sixth overall in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft. Gross committed to Notre Dame in August.
Talent Analysis: What makes Gross a dangerous player is his combination of skating and world-class shot- the puck simply explodes off of his stick. Possessing great instincts, Gross will need to continue to shore up the physical element of his defensive game.
Son of University of Minnesota associate head coach Mike Guentzel, Jake Guentzel has taken Minnesota hockey by storm in his junior year. Guentzel began his 2011-12 season by finishing second overall in points in the Minnesota Elite League with 14 goals and 30 assists in 24 games. He then went on to lead Hill-Murray in points during the high school season with 72 in 28 games. Guentzel is another player from the 2013 draft eligible class that may be ending his high school career this weekend. Guentzel tried out for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers this past summer and will likely do the same this summer.
Talent Analysis: Having fantastic hockey sense and touch allows the smallish Guentzel to thrive among bigger players. However, there is a precedent regarding his size- his two older brothers – both of whom played NCAA hockey, – went through late growth spurts. Guentzel will need to work on maintaining consistent intensity game in and game out.
While much of the attention Duluth East gets focuses on the forwards, Meirs Moore anchors the Greyhound blueline. The five-foot-nine defenseman contributed 13 goals and 46 points in 30 games this season playing a brand of near-mistake hockey. He also played very well in the Upper Midwest Elite League, tallying 15 points in 23 games.
Talent Analysis: Despite the glaring size issue, Moore has the intangible traits which allowed him to thrive amongst his peers – incredible poise and a high hockey IQ. His skating isn’t as dynamic as one would like to see from a player of his size, but it certainly isn’t a hindrance either.
Daniel Labosky was Benilde-St. Margaret’s main setup man this season with 45 assists in 28 games while playing alongside top 2012 draft eligible Grant Besse. Labosky has committed to Colorado College and like many juniors is faced with the decision on whether or not to return to Benilde-St. Margaret’s. The Tri-City Storm own his rights and would love to have him as they retool next year.
Talent Analysis: Although tiny at five-foot-seven and 150-pounds, Labosky is a feisty competitor. He has some agitator to his game, but he also has a tremendous amount of skill too. An elite skater, Labosky quarterbacks the Benilde-St. Margarets power play
Few sophomores make an impact at the State Tournament, but the majority of sophomores do not possess the talent of Edina’s Connor Hurley. Despite all of the talent upfront for the Hornets, Connor Hurley lead the team in points with 24 goals and 31 assists in 28 games. Hurley will continue to play with very talented forwards in senior Dylan Malmquist and junior Andy Jordahl during the state tournament. Considering his birthday (9/15/1995), Hurley will be the youngest player eligible for the 2013 Draft.
Talent Analysis: Perhaps the most skilled player in the 2013 Minnesota Draft Class; Hurley capable of scoring highlight reel goals and setting up teammates as well. He’s a good skater who simply could use some added strength.
Thief River Falls
Chris Forney brings the big-bodied presence along the blueline for Thief River Falls team. The six-foot-two defenseman is a very solid defenseman who has impressive bloodlines. Forney’s brother, Mike Forney, was selected in the third round by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2006 Entry Draft and is currently playing in the AHL for the Texas Stars. Forney also finds the score sheet as he recorded 23 points in 29 games for the Prowlers.
Talent Analysis: While once considered a sleeper for next year, Forney’s continued improvement in his foot speed and physical game over the course of the year have put him squarely on the NHL radar. Has intriguing potential.
The fact the Pioneers returned to St. Paul in March is a testament to the play of Blake Heinrich, the team’s only returning blueliner. Perhaps the most devastating hitter in the high school ranks, Heinrich was taken 34th overall by Sioux City in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft. Heinrich has some offensive game too, scoring 35 points in 30 games.
Talent Analysis: Heinrich is a punishing physical player who makes life tough for opponents in his end. He will step up and level puck carriers in open ice. He has good size and mobility. The Hill Murray power play runs through him, although he’ll likely be in a more defensive role at the next level.
This is just a sampling, as some of the Minnesota’s best 2013 eligibles weren’t even able to make it to the Xcel Energy Center- an exciting thought for scouts and hockey fans alike. The State Hockey Tournament wraps up tonight and tomorrow, and is available at http://www.prep45.com/ for viewing on live stream.
With files from Andrew Weiss