I risked life and limb on some icy roads(not really, it was like a five-minute drive) to watch #1 ranked Wayzata take on Centennial. It was a fun, exciting, competitive game. For about the first three minutes of the game.
Centennial came out with what I actually thought was an excellent game plan, trying to utilize their small speedy forwards to forecheck Wayzata hard, and using their big defensemen to beat up Wayzata physically. Wayzata actually looked like they were a little vulnerable to a heavy forecheck, turning the puck over a few times.
The problem is that a game plan like that requires a lot of discipline. A couple minutes in, Centennial took a bad penalty in the Wayzata end. On the resulting power play, Tony Cameranesi took the puck end to end on a nice rush and scored the game's first goal. I think it took some wind out of the crowd and the Centennial bench with how easy he made it look. Wayzata scored a quick goal after that and was essentially on cruise control the rest of the way. I left with Wayzata up 5-0 after two periods, and Wayzata ended up winning 6-1.
It was my first high school game of the season, but Wayzata looked the part of the state's best team. For Centennial, it was a good measuring stick of just how far they have to go, after section favorites Maple Grove played Wayzata to a one-goal game, and Centennial couldn't keep it that close for five minutes.
Thoughts on individual players after the jump.
Mario Lucia is Minnesota high school hockey's one big hope at this summer's NHL Draft. There were probably about a dozen NHL scouts at the game. He probably would have been better off staying with the NTDP or playing in the USHL this year where he would have been pushed a little bit more, but because of who is dad is, leaving in the fall probably wasn't an option because it would have been a public relations disaster for the U. Next year, when it's almost a guarantee that he'll play in the USHL, it will be a little different, because he can leave earlier in the summer, when not as many people are paying attention to hockey, he'll possibly have a state title under his belt, and the average fan will be able to see a more quantifiable measure of his talent with where he is picked in the NHL Draft.
Anyway, Lucia isn't quite a finished product, but there's a lot to like about the way he plays, and he's got loads of upside that could make him great in the future. He's still incredibly lanky, but it looks like he's starting to fill out a little more, and will almost undoubtedly get stronger in the future. He's a smooth skater and has excellent hockey sense.
Where would I put him in the draft? It was an interesting comparison seeing him less than a week apart from forward draft prospects like Brandon Saad, Stefan Noesen, Vince Trocheck, and Rickard Rakell. Foremost, it highlights to me the extreme difficulty for scouts to compare players who are playing against vastly different levels of talent. If I were ranking just those five, I'd got Saad, Noesen, Lucia, Rakell, Trocheck. In the grand scheme of things, I'd probably start looking at Lucia in the mid-second to early third rounds of the draft.
Minnesota-Duluth recruit Tony Cameranesi is also a draft prospect, and could maybe sneak into the later rounds, but I still think it's a long shot. He's an amazingly strong skater, but I don't think the other aspects of his game are enough to make up for his size.
More important in my mind is how he factors into the Mr. Hockey race. There's an interesting dynamic here in that NHL scouts vote on the award, and thanks to Lucia and Wayzata's insane schedule, every Wayzata game should be pretty heavily scouted. Eden Prairie isn't exactly a backwater, but Wayzata will definitely be watched more. He's maybe not draft material, but if Cameranesi continues to leave a good impression by being the best player on the ice in key games, he might start to get some more consideration. Wayzata and Eden Prairie meet twice later in the season, and if Cameranesi outplays Rau there, Mr. Hockey could be one of the more intriguing races in recent years.
The third player on Wayzata's top line, senior Tyler Klein, often gets forgotten about, but I was very impressed with him in his own right. He had surprising hands for a kid his size. He's another kid that really needs to fill out, but there's probably more talent there than people give him credit for.
Supporting that top line is forward Tanner Jensen, who is a talented kid that has been hampered by some injury troubles over the years. With Wayzata's top line likely drawing most teams' top two defensemen, there's a big opportunity for him to put up points on the second line. Senior defenseman D.J. Jones is rock solid of the blue line, and should play big minutes for the Trojans.
Goalie Andrew McIntyre wasn't tested much, but was very solid when called upon. That was maybe a question mark coming into the season with Edina and Eden Prairie having more well-known names in net with Connor Girard and Andrew Ford, but McIntyre has been great so far this season, and that looks like it could be a strength for Wayzata.
Centennial tried to rely on their two top defensemen in Jake Flynn and Joey Hess. They were solid in the physical aspect of the game, but struggled turning the puck over in the zone too many times, which ended up costing them. You can't really fault them though since they had to play so many minutes against the best line in the state. Senior defenseman Blayne Ellson played softer minutes, but was extremely solid on the night.
At forward, this is probably one of the weaker groups Centennial has had in a while. Seniors Riley Colvard and Trey Hughes are both solid players--in very different ways since there's about a foot difference in height between the two--but are more niche players that seem like they would be more effective if they had a teammate to take care of more of the puckhandling while they focused more on their strengths.