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The State of the State of Hockey?

I was checking out the NHL scoring leaders for the regular season recently and I noticed something missing: Minnesotans. In fact, the only player from Minnesota to be in the top 100 in NHL scoring was Moorhead's Jason Blake at #91. Cloquet's Jamie Langenbrunner is 115th. To find a player from the Twin Cities metro area, you have to go down to #129 with Mark Parrish.

The numbers are only slightly better for defenseman. Baudette's Keith Ballard is 33rd among defenseman and Minneapolis' Paul Martin is 40th. Bret Hedican has the best +/- rating among Minnesotan defenseman, but is only tied for 29th among defenseman. Jordan Leopold is the next highest defenseman in a tie for 66th overall.

The top Minnesotan goalie was St. Paul's Adam Berkhoel who only played 9 games this season. The only other Minnesotan goalie to play in the NHL this season was Adam Hauser, who was only on the ice for 50 minutes this season in one appearance, and registered a .750 save percentage.

Looking at those numbers, it's pretty safe to say that there isn't a single player from Minnesota in the top 100 players in the NHL. The question of how something like this happens needs to be asked.

Players from the state of Minnesota have many advantages over other parts of the country, and other parts of the world. First, hockey is the number one sports priority for most families, meaning any potential top athlete is likely to choose hockey over a different sport like basketball, football, or soccer. There is also the advantage that Minnesota probably has as many covered sheets of ice per capita as any other place in the world. Yet for some reason, with all those advantages, there are no elite world-class hockey players in the NHL from Minnesota.

One theory as to why this is happening is the way that youth players are developed. Perhaps there is too much emphasis placed on winning at a young age and not enough on developing skills. Young players are learning positioning and defensive systems rather than developing skills.

There's also the possibility that players are spending too much time praciticing and not playing enough games. The Canadian model of development is to have fewer practices while developing skills by playing more games. That model seems to have worked well as Canada has 6 of the 10 scorers in the NHL.

Of course there is also the theory that the state of Minnesota is just in a cyclical downswing. There was only one Minnesotan(Erik Rasmussen) drafted in the first round of the NHL draft between 1990 and 1998. This year, there are as many as 4 Minnesotans projected to go in the first round of the draft this year, including top pick Erik Johnson. There were four Minnesotans drafted in the first round last year too.

As the main producer of college hockey talent, the future of hockey in Minnesota is very important to the college game. If Minnesota can get back to producing world class talent, the college game will definitely benefit.