The Sioux Falls Stampede held their annual invite tryout camp at Ridder Arena this past weekend, and I made it down for some of the scrimmages on Saturday evening. The Stampede do a really nice job making this event accessible to people, which is why it's a fun event to go to. There were a couple WCHA coaches there, as well as a pretty nice handful of fans from Sioux Falls that made the trip in to watch the team.
I ended up with quite a bit to say on the camp. I'll list it all off after the jump.
-In comparing the quality of the play with past four or five Stampede tryouts I've been to, there wasn't a standout performer like a Jack Connolly or Jake Hansen(it probably bears reminding that he was a pretty awesome player before he went to Minnesota), but overall, I thought the quality of talent was much stronger than the past couple of years. It was also more physical. I think there were about seven different fights between the two scrimmages, which is more than I can recall at the past four or five combined.
-I don't know if this has been reported, but Providence College's Willie Hess was on the roster, which would seem to indicate he's going to junior hockey. Hess went to Providence straight out of high school, and ended up not playing in a game for the Friars last season.
-Sioux Falls has a great history with Austrian-born players, most notably Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl, along with Kris Reinthaler and Patrick Divjak, and they had another at their tryout camp this year named Manuel Laritz, a '92 born forward. He had 14 points in 26 games in a Slovenian league last year, for whatever that is worth. His skating was pretty rough, but he's a big guy with some decent puck skills.
There were a number of other European players also at the tryout camp, including Linus Molin, who came over to the States a couple times with the Swedish-based Malmo team that competed in the Upper Midwest Elite League national tournament. Also from Malmo was a '93 born defenseman named Victor Bjorkung, who also has some experience playing in North America. He's got a big shot, and was a little rough defensively, but is still pretty young. Defenseman Henrik Karlsson from Brynas in Sweden and goalie Juho Olkinuora from HIFK in Finland were also there.
-It should be interesting to see what Sioux Falls does in goal. Starting netminder Clay Witt has moved on to Northeastern. Last year's back-up Lino Chimienti didn't have great stats last year, and really struggled in the little I saw, which means things could be really open for the netminding job next year. It was like a Who's Who of Twin Cities goalies at the camp: Hopkins' Alex Fons(who got into a game with the Stampede at the end of the year), Benilde's Jacob Meyers, Minnetonka's Jim Kruger, Eden Prairie's Andrew Ford, and Forest Lake's Paul Moberg. Throw in a number of quality goalies that played AAA hockey last year and I'm sure some tough choices had to be made.
-I've mentioned before that the '93-born group in Minnesota looks fairly weak, but that a few kids should start to emerge heading into next year. There were a couple kids that looked to be in this category at the camp. I wasn't familiar with Blake School defenseman David Tearse, but he was impressive. Don Lucia's son Mario was one of the more exciting forwards at the camp, though he's a very skinny kid right now. Edina's Michael Sit was invited to the NTDP tryout camp two years ago, but had kind of a quiet year last year. He looked much quicker and more impressive at this camp though. He could have a big year next year. Faribault defenseman Brandon Parker jumped into the rush a couple of times and made nice plays. Minnetonka's Erik Baskin is a late '93, so he'll only be a junior next year, but he looked good as well. I was impressed with him towards the end of Minnetonka's season last year and he looks like he could be a player. Another late '93 is Breck's Nate Traina, who has kind of been overshadowed by all of Breck's talent, but has some skills.
-The most exciting forward to watch at the camp was Shattuck-St. Mary's Anthony Greco. He's always been a smaller player, but has great puckhandling skills and has developed some great speed to make up for his lack of size. Because of his size, he struggles in the corners a bit, which might make playing in the USHL tough for him, but he'll probably be at Shattuck for his senior year anyway.
-There were a couple of impressive players that I wasn't familiar with prior to this camp. Toronto Jr. Canadiens defenseman Matt Solomon looked very good, despite having some pretty ugly stats in the CCHL last year. Ansel Duesenberg from the Colorado Thunderbirds program looks like a player with some good potential. Nick Gawron('90) and Robbie Gawron('94) both played pretty solid defense. Ohio Jr. Bluejackets forward Kent Sherrer looked good for a '93 as well.
-This camp was also evidence on how much Tier II hockey is improving. The quality of NAHL players at the camp was much better than in the past. It wasn't just guys that were older, stronger, and grittier, but guys with some legitimate skill as well. Mac Olson, JT Osborn, Cody Wydo, Nolan Youngmun, Ryan Jacobson, and TJ Moor all looked pretty good out there.