Minnesota held their final round of tryouts for the national Select 16 and 17 Festivals--meaning kids born in 1996 and 1995 respectively, who are probably all like, "What's a Candlebox?"--this past weekend in Plymouth. I was at the tournament on Saturday, and figured I'd give my take on which players should move on to New York for the national festivals.
The level of play here was pretty impressive. Goal tending was pretty atrocious, but that's usually case, even at the national tournament level. Skaters develop faster than goalies, and it is especially evident at these age levels. Neither group appears especially deep with NHL Draft-type talent, but there were plenty of really good future junior/college players here.
After the jump, I'll make my picks.
Defense- Jack Glover, Jack Walker, Ryan Collins, Mitch Slattery, Alex Copa, Travis Brown
Glover has really emerged as the star of this group. He has all the tools to be a very high NHL draft pick some day. Some people were curious about why the NTDP was so interested in Ryan Collins after an uneven high school season. He's got loads of potential, and with two years of great coaching/development, he could turn into something special. Slattery and Copa were rock solid. Brown was my last choice, though it could have gone to a number of other D, including both kids from Eagan or Stillwater's Jake Cass.
Forward: Ryan Norman, Chase Phelps, Dylan Malmquist, Tyler Nanne, Paul Bittner, Colton Schmidt, Michael Sauer, Joey Lau, Jake Jaremko, Jake Wahlin
I was really impressed with Norman and Phelps here. Malmquist isn't very big, which I suspect is why he was passed over by the NTDP, but he makes a play with the puck every time he touches it. Bittner started the day pretty well, but kind of faded as the day passed. Schmidt and Sauer were nice surprises with their play. Joey Lau led this group in scoring for the second straight year. His lack of size is starting to catch up with him, but he's a very tenacious player. I have no idea why Jake Jaremko wasn't on the original roster, but he was very good.
Goalies: Chase Perry is a given. Any other spots are toss-ups.
Defense: Jordan Gross, Michael Brodzinski, Willie Raskob, Blake Heinrich, Parker Reno, Johnny Austin
The first three are pretty much givens. For what it's worth, after a very bad high school season, I thought Brodzinski looked much better here. I also think it's time for Heinrich and Reno to move into the same category as those other. When all is said and done, Reno may be the best pro prospect out of this group. Whichever college lands Heinrich is getting a really nice player. Most impressive is that everyone that talks about Heinrich leads with what a quality person he is.The last spot most likely will go to Jimmy Schuldt. He was better here than I've ever seen him, so I wouldn't have a problem with him getting a national invite this year, though I personally liked Austin a little better. This is a phenomenally deep group. I can't think of any of the 18 defensemen here that would look out of place at the national camp.
Forward: Dan Labosky, Connor Hurley, Karson Kuhlman, Avery Peterson, Mason Bergh, Tommy Hajicek, Alex Toscano, Tyler Sheehy, Willie Brown, Tyler Cline
I was confused how East Grand Forks' Tommy Hajicek only scored 13 goals during the high school season, and that's even more confusing considering he scored 12 goals in just 6 Festival games. Labosky is going to be a kid that fans from other teams hate, but is a very effective college player. Hurley and Peterson are probably the only 2013 draft picks out of this group. Sheehy and possibly Kuhlman are 2014 prospects. Mason Bergh has always been a step behind some of the other top kids in this age group, but he had a great tournament and I think he deserves a spot. Willie Brown scored a ton between the two weekends of tryouts. Tyler Cline isn't a huge kid, but was very effective.
Goalies: The kid from Jefferson had pretty sweet pads, so I guess him? Do I have to pick another?