NHL Central Scouting released their listing of Minnesota high school players to watch list at the end of October, and with the high school hockey season kicking off later this week, I thought I'd take a look at some of the players that made the list.
For the first time that I can remember, no players received Central Scouting's 'A' rating of a player like to be picked in the first three rounds of the draft, and it's tough to argue with that. It's a deep year elsewhere in the draft, and a very thin year for Minnesota high school hockey. Attrition to various other junior league options may deserve some of the blame, but Brady Skjei is the only Minnesotan playing outside the state of Minnesota likely worthy of an 'A' ranking, so it's not like they lost a lot of good players.
That brings us to the 'B' rated players, which equates to being a mid-to-late round draft pick.
-Erik Baskin, F, Minnetonka HS- Baskin has a big frame, and he protects and handles the puck very well. Like most bigger players, skating will probably be the divisive issue for teams. Personally, I probably would have had him in the 'C' category, but there's a chance he could play his way into getting drafted.
-Jake Bischoff, D, Grand Rapids- Bischoff is the player on this list I've seen the least, but he's got a nice shot from the point and good hockey bloodlines.
-Teddy Blueger, F, Shattuck- Blueger likely played his way into being a mid-to-late round draft pick with a great Elite League, capped off by a dominating performance in the league's final game. But Blueger is a bit of a rarity in that he will get to play at the World Juniors this year as part of Latvia's team, and his performance in the world's most closely scouted event will ultimately be the deciding factor on where he gets picked. Blueger is a dangerous offensive threat with great hands and playmaking ability, but really needs to fill out physically before he's ready for the next level.
-John Draeger, D, Shattuck- Draeger is a defensive defenseman that is very strong with a long reach that allows him to play bigger than he is. He's very sound positionally when it comes to keeping forwards to the outside. His puck-handling is his biggest weakness right now, especially when under pressure.
-Hunter Fejes, F, Shattuck- Fejes is a hard-working power forward that always seems to be around the puck. He doesn't have high-end skill, but makes up for it with a lot of grit.
-Adam Johnson, F, Hibbing- Johnson was the star of last season's Class A tournament. He's got incredibly quick feet and quick hands, but serious questions remain about if he can develop into a complete hockey player. Johnson would be a high risk pick for any team that took him, but could also have a high reward.
-Justin Kloos, F, Lakeville South- Kloos seems like the type of player that garner a 'C' rating in a stronger year just because he lacks prototypical size, but he's got great hands and quickness and knows how to put the puck in the net. Some team will definitely take a chance on him because of his high skill level.
-Will Merchant, F, Eagan- Merchant is a player that relies on his physicality more than natural skill; something that may hurt his draft stock since he's not particularly huge for a physical power forward. He'll make a lot of plays on a very strong team this year, however, which should help him gain attention.
Louie Nanne, F, Edina- Though he's not particularly big, Nanne is a very strong player that has an excellent shot and can lay a nice hit. The big key for Nanne will be developing consistency. At times, he can be dominating, but will need to prove he can do that night in and night out this year.
Charlie Sampair, F, Hill-Murray- Sampair earned a spot on this list because he's a very smooth, natural skater. If he's selected, the team that picks him will have to hope the rest of his game catches up to his skating ability.
Zach Stepan, F, Shattuck- Derek's cousin plays a similar style game to the New York Ranger. He's a smart, patient player, that should only get better as he matures. He doesn't quite have the high-end skill to be a top round draft pick, but would be a nice mid-round pick.
The majority of players from the 'C' list don't end up getting drafted, but every year it seems a few raise their stock and end up working their way into the draft discussion. Eagan's Eli May had a strong end to the Elite League and looks like he could move up, while big Jay Dickman is a wild card at 6'5".