This is now the fourth consecutive year I've tried naming the top candidates for Minnesota's top senior hockey player, the Mr. Hockey Award. So far, I'm a perfect 3 for 3 on picking the winners. This year, at least after the top guy, the field is a little less clear.
Looking back through the history of winners and finalists for the award, Minnesotans have been a bit spoiled over the past six years, with the award going to top round NHL Draft picks. This year's class more resembles the down years of 2001 through 2004, where the only NHL Draft pick to win the award was Gino Guyer, a fifth round pick. Though five finalists from that four-year period went on to become NHL regulars, so you never know how things will shake out.
As a reminder, the selection process is done by area NHL scouts and the state's college coaches, so future potential does play a big role in this.
With all that said, let's get to my actual picks.
1. Kyle Rau, Forward, Eden Prairie, Committed to Minnesota
Sometimes, timing can be everything. Kyle Rau's older brother Chad was also a standout player for Eden Prairie High School, but spent his high school years over-shadowed by bigger name players. Chad opted to skip his senior year at Eden Prairie to play in the USHL, but even if he had stayed in Minnesota, he wouldn't have stood much of a chance at winning Mr. Hockey against future first round NHL picks Brian Lee, Matt Niskanen, and T.J. Oshie. While hometown school Minnesota showed some interest in Rau, they were more interested in top ten draft picks Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel, and Rau eventually ended up at Colorado College.
Kyle Rau is competing in a very different landscape than his older brother did. Though he played two USHL games with Sioux Falls this past weekend, he was one of the few elite players in the state not to skip his senior season for junior hockey. Because of his size, he's likely a borderline late round NHL Draft pick like his older brother, but he won't be competing against any first round NHL Draft picks for the Mr. Hockey Award. There's a chance he might not be competing with any second or third round picks either. And he's already earned a scholarship to play at Minnesota.
Rau is an electrifying player with a burst of speed that no Minnesota high school player can match, and is a fun player to watch offensively. He's reminiscent of a young Marty Sertich, who dominated over an underwhelming class of candidates to take home to the 2001 award.
The other nine candidates for Mr.Hockey are after the jump.
2. Max Everson, Defenseman, Edina, Uncommitted
Everson has had a bit of an up-and-down high school career, starting when he broke onto the scene as a promising freshman, playing with his older brother Marshall, on a very high-powered Hornets team. He fell off the radar a bit as a sophomore, when he wasn't invited to try out for the NTDP team, but seems to have rebounded, helping Edina to a state championship last year, and being invited to play with the NTDP this fall.
Everson could also be the highest-rated draft prospect out of the eligible candidates, but is more likely to be ranked in the third to fourth round range than first or second, which means his draft prospects might not earn him much recognition. He also could be hampered by playing on a very deep team with some other good potential Mr. Hockey candidates like Steven Fogarty or Jake Sampson.
3. Tony Cameranesi, Forward, Wayzata, Committed to Minnesota-Duluth
Cameranesi has quietly been a very good player throughout his high school career, but has flown under the radar a bit. While his Wayzata teams have been solid in recent years, they've taken a back seat to some of the other powerhouses in their area like Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Edina.
So far this season, Cameranesi has separated himself from the pack with his outstanding play in the Elite League, and was one of the first, and possibly one of the few, players to lock down a WCHA scholarship this year, when he verbally committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
He could also be helped by the fact that this year may be Wayzata's turn to be a powerhouse. Wayzata is loaded with talent that has finally matured into upperclassmen and playing on a top-ranked team could help draw some attention to Cameranesi. He is a ‘B' rated player for the NHL Draft, but with a listed height under 5'10", his odds of getting picked in the NHL Draft don't seem spectacular.
4. Garrett Hendrickson, Forward, Virginia, Committed to St. Cloud
Hendrickson should put up huge numbers for Virginia this season, and already has a commitment lined up to St. Cloud, which should help make him a finalist for the award, but it will likely be next to impossible for Hendrickson to win the award.
Hendrickson was already eligible for the NHL Draft last year, and was passed over, and it's unlikely that anything he could do against the competition Virginia plays would be impressive enough for him to be selected this next time around. It's just too hard for any player from a smaller Class A school outside of the Metro area to get the type of attention necessary to win this award.
5. Joseph LaBate, Forward, Holy Angels, Uncommitted
LaBate is a 6'4" forward with some pretty decent puck-handling skills. He's a potential late round NHL Draft pick simply because of his large frame. In a stronger year, that might not mean as much, but again, he may be the second Minnesota high school senior to go off the board in the draft, which should draw him some consideration. He's still uncommitted at this point, but a commitment seems likely sometime during the high school season.
6. Tyler Heinonen, Forward, Delano, Uncommitted
Heinonen is a player with great hands and scoring touch. He'll likely have a huge year, topping last year's 69 point performance.
What hurts him is playing on the far, far outskirts of the Twin Cities in Delano, a Class A school that is unlikely to be a major player in high school hockey this season. It's going to be hard to impress voters with high point totals against teams like Waconia and Mound-Westonka when some of the other candidates are consistently playing big games against the state's top teams.
7. AJ Reid, Forward, St. Thomas Academy, Uncommitted
There's no denying that Reid is a talented player, maybe one of the top five most talented in the state. The problem is that the same could probably be said for linemate Zach Schroeder. Throw in senior defenseman Taylor Fleming, who has received some college interest, and there's likely too much debate about who the best player on St. Thomas Academy's team is for there to be any discussion about one of them being the best in the state.
8. Derek Frawley, Forward, Minnetonka, Uncommitted
Frawley has a tremendous amount of talent, but hasn't quite put it all together yet. Minnetonka lost a lot of talent off of last year's great team, but still returns quite a bit, and should remain a top team. With the difficult schedule they'll play, Frawley will get opportunities to impress by going head-to-head against the state's best player, and if he can take the next step in his development and carry his team, he could earn some consideration for the award by the end of the year.
9. Ryan Jaremko, Defenseman, Elk River, Uncommitted
There might not be another player in all of high school hockey that will log more ice time than Jaremko this season. The Elks will rely very heavily on their experienced senior defenseman.
This could be a bit of a down year for Elk River, between losing a talented senior class last year, and waiting for some of the young players that had tremendous success at the bantam level to mature, but if they can surprise people and be a top team this year, Jaremko could be a dark horse to be a finalist this year.
10. Ben Bahe, Forward, Hill-Murray, Uncommitted
Hill-Murray seems to churn out the same rock solid team that dominates the northeast Metro and is ranked somewhere between third and fifth in the state every single season, to the point that I think sometimes people tend to overlook some of the parts that make the machine go.
But Bahe is a crafty playmaking forward that will be on the top line of a great team for the third straight year, and should at least get consideration as a finalist for the award this year.