This past weekend, the Plymouth Ice Center played host to both the final rounds of the Advanced 16s and 17s--basically the last round of tryouts to see who will go to the national Select 16s and 17s in Rochester, NY this summer--and the second annual High School Hockey National Invitational tournament, a tournament for high school seniors that has sort of replaced the national tournament that used to be held in Chicago.
The end result of putting so much quality hockey in one spot is that this is one of the most heavily scouted weekends on the calendar in Minnesota. In addition to most of the WCHA, and a few CCHA schools, there were also numerous junior teams there scouting and a handful of NHL scouts as well.
If you can stand waiting for graphics to load on teams that don't actually have logos, Minnesota Hockey Hub has all the stats from the weekend's action. I made it down for most of the day on Saturday, and jotted down a few notes that I thought I'd share. All the analysis is after the jump.
High School National Invitational Tournament
Thanks to the scheduling on Saturday, I missed out on getting to see Team Michigan and Team North Dakota. After a rocky start in preliminary play, the two Minnesota teams ended up prevailing, with the team of graduating seniors beating the U18 team in the final.
One of the big stories for the MN Senior team was defenseman Eddie Wittchow, who last week was listed as a mid-round draft pick by NHL Central Scouting, and reportedly had visits set up to a number of WCHA--and technically Big 10 Conference, I suppose--teams. It was a little tough to judge him as a defensive defenseman since he was going up against an over-matched Massachusetts team. Despite the 3-1 final score, shots were somewhere in the range of 40-10, so he wasn't all that tested. I'd still be a little leery of drafting him that high before seeing how he holds up against faster competition.
By comparison, I don't think the gap is that big between Wittchow and Neal Goff, who was playing for the MN U18 team, despite Wittchow being 49 spots higher in the CSB rankings. Goff is a little less reliable defensively, but maybe more intriguing as a prospect because he's a smoother skater.
At the forward spot, Josh Archibald is a player that might merit another look. He doesn't necessarily have prototypical size, but hes' a very good, strong skater. Michael Zajac was kind of quiet in the little I saw. Wisconsin recruit Brad Navin was a kid that kind of dropped off the radar when he decided to play Wisconsin high school hockey this season. Again, it's tough to judge him in this setting. At his size, he'll likely make his living right in front of the net on the power play, but as Team WI's top forward, he was out on the perimeter helping quarterback the power play. Like Wittchow, there is potential there, but it will depend on if a team is willing to make that big of a gamble.
Wisconsin forward Ryan Dau was impressive again, after looking very good during the fall Elite League. Just about any of the players off the MN senior team would make solid USHL players.
Again, because of the way the schedule worked, I missed out seeing the Red team, which was disappointing, because a lot of the players that I have as 2012 NHL Draft prospects were on that team. Anyway, since I only saw 2/3s of the players, I won't say who I think should be moving on to Rochester.
I had said I would be curious how UMD recruit Adam Johnson compared to the players in his age group after his impressive state tournament performance, and once again I was very impressed. Once he fills out a little more he should be a big-time player.
Zach Stepan remains towards the top of this age group. Maple Grove's Dylan Steman and Totino-Grace's TJ Roo looked good as well. AJ Michaelson was pretty quiet in the little bit that I saw. Tyler Vesel isn't the most physical player, but passes the puck really well and creates a lot of offense. Dom Toninato and Jared Thomas were also strong for the White team.
Since I actually saw all of these teams play, I figured I'd just list the 12 forwards, 6 D, and 2 goalies I'd pick to move on to the next level.
F-Conner Valesano-Duluth East
F-Jake Ahlgren-Fergus Falls
F-Dan Labosky-Benilde-St. Margaret's
F-Zach Hale-Benilde-St. Margaret's
F-Zach Hartley-Holy Angels
F-Ryan Lundgren-Duluth East
Voltin was probably the best of the bunch/ Last year, he was very good, but also much bigger than everyone else. This year, some of the rest of the group started to catch up physically, but he was still pretty dominant. Jake Ahlgren wasn't really on my radar, but was very impressive. Overall, this is a pretty decent group.
D-Gage Ausmus-East Grand Forks(NTDP)
D-Jordan Gross-Maple Grove
Another very deep group. Ausmus has started to grow into his huge frame. Lewis is similar, but not quite there yet. This is the second straight year that I didn't think Raskob played very well at this camp, but he's highly regarded enough that he should still get an invite.
G-Hunter Miska-North Branch(NTDP)
This was a tough call because Dugas, Miska, and Dylan Parker were the pretty clear-cut top three. Ideally, the odd one out is invited as an alternate.