At one time, the University of Minnesota Model Camp was one of the bigger scouting events of the summer in the state of Minnesota, bringing many of the top players from the state for a week long camp, highlighted by some scrimmages. But due to NCAA recruiting rules, the Gophers were required to be less selective about the players that could intend and the event became extremely watered down over the past few years.
This year, however, the camp was officially turned over to Minnesota Hockey, though it still retains a heavy Gopher influence. Grant Potulny is the camp director, Mariucci Arena still hosts the event. and unlike the old Model Camp, there were no players with commitments to other schools at the camp(which seems particularly funny given the Gophers newly-adopted 'I don't see no ring on his finger' philosophy towards recruiting). Also, as a sign of the times in college hockey recruiting, the camp now skews much younger, consisting primarily of high school sophomores and juniors, rather than mostly juniors and seniors as it did in the past.
Overall, it was a very good group of players at the camp, including most of the top uncommitted players in the state of Minnesota. I attended the scrimmages on Tuesday and Friday(though Friday was a bit of a wash because most of the players seemed worn down by the long week of camp). Here's some notes on what I saw out of some of the top performers at the camp:
Jack Sadek, '97, Lakeville North- For my money, Sadek was the best player at the camp, though as a '97 he was also towards the older end of players there. Sadek didn't really stand out to me during the high school season, and didn't go through the High Performance camps this spring, but he did make the NHL Central Scouting preliminary watch list for next year's draft, and definitely looked like he'll be in the conversation for next season. Listed at 6'1", he's got decent size, moves very fluidly and has heavy shot from the point with a smooth quick release. He really controlled the game when he was on the ice.
Ryan Zuhlsdorf, '97, Edina HS-Zuhlsdorf does a good playing within himself and not trying to do too much, so he isn't as flashy, or make as big an impact on the game as a kid like Sadek or Lindgren did, but he also doesn't make many mistakes. He still really needs to fill out, but he's likely worth a late round draft choice in next year's NHL Draft.
Rem Pitlick, '97, Shattuck-St. Mary's- The biggest news with Pitlick was that he was listed at 5'7" 164 lbs. I still think that's stretching his actual measurements, but in person, Pitlick looked the same size as the other small players at the camp, rather than being another gradation smaller than those kids. Pitlick has above average hockey sense, and is a hard worker. It's just a matter of if he'll be able to keep up physically with the competition around him, and he was able to do that here. He was consistently a threat offensively on both days I saw.
Michael Graham, '97+, Eden Prairie HS-Graham is a kid that for whatever reason, often gets overlooked among MN HS prospects, likely because he's not the fastest skater and isn't as flashy, but he's a big kid with soft hands and the ability to make plays in tight spaces. He's not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2016 either, at which point he'll likely be in the conversation to be selected.
Ryan Norman, '96+, Shattuck-St. Mary's-A lack of high-end upside may keep him from being a high draft pick next summer, but he's so strong and quick in the corners that he should be an effective, grinding forward for the Gophers in the future.
Josh Passolt, '96, Maple Grove HS- Passolt was the oldest player at camp, and his college eligibility is iffy after playing in a preseason game with Prince Albert(WHL) last year, but he had a very good game on Tuesday.
Jonah Bischoff, '97, Grand Rapids HS-Created some good scoring chances with his speed on Tuesday, had a quieter game on Friday.
Lukas Gillett, '96+, Rosemount HS-Small forward that was always making things happen with his speed.
Ryan Lindgren, '98, NTDP U17- I'm not sure what the long-term prospects are for Lindgren, but right now, he has the ability to control the game with his strength and skating ability. His acceleration allows to out-skate any attacker, and he's very strong rushing the puck up the ice. He was right up there with Sadek for best player at the camp.
Garrett Wait, '98, Edina HS-I was very high on Wait prior to his outstanding showing at the Select 16 Festival, where he led the camp in scoring. He didn't put up the same type of offensive numbers here(at least that I saw), but was still impressive. Listed at 154 lbs., he still needs to add a lot of mass to be effective at the next level, but he's a very smart player that uses his body to position himself effectively about as well as any player I've seen. He thinks the game one step ahead of everyone else and is always dangerous.
Hank Sorenson, '98, Wayzata HS-Sorenson didn't play on Friday, so I only saw him on Tuesday, but he was very impressive. He's always been a very physical defenseman, but also showed the ability to pick his spots to jump into the play and make things happen offensively. He's taken another step forward over the summer in his development. I was a little surprised he wasn't picked for the Five Nations team after seeing him play here, though that was a very difficult group to crack.
Ben Meyers, '98+, Delano HS- It was a bit of a surprise to see Meyers name end up on the 30-man roster for the Fargo Force of the USHL. He's probably not quite ready for the USHL yet, but he looked much closer here than he had in my previous viewings. He's not tall, but he's solidly built and tough to knock off the puck with very good quickness.
Mark Senden, '98, Wayzata HS-I don't think he'll be a big scorer at the college level, but he's really developed the physical aspect of his game over the past year, and should make an excellent two-way forward at the next level.
Casey Mittelstadt, '98+, Eden Prairie HS- Mittelstadt was the best bantam in the state last year, and should be a huge scorer at the high school level this coming season. Great release on his shot makes him an effective goal scorer.
Sam Huff, '98, Maple Grove HS- I've always really liked Huff's game. He's not a super fast skater, but has a good first step, stickhandles pretty well, and can play a very physical game. He didn't put up a lot of offense in the games I saw, but I still think the potential is there.
Brendan Bushy, '98, Thief River Falls HS-Plays a very quiet game and never tries to do too much, but plays his position well and moves the puck effectively. He looks like he still has room to grow and fill out some more too. Lots of upside.
Matt Denman, '98, Prior Lake-His skating has been a bit of a question mark in the past, but it looked pretty good here. He'll be a nice player if his foot speed continues to improve.
Scott Reedy, '99, Shattuck-St. Mary's- By far the most developed '99 at the camp. He looked like one of the older players there.
Connor Mayer, '99, Benilde-St. Margaret's-There's some areas of his game he needs to round out, but he's got elite stickhandling and passing ability from the blue line. A lot of upside as an offensive defenseman.
Nate Knoepke, '99, Lakeville South-There's a couple big defensemen in this '99 group, and right now, I think Knoepke is the best of them. He's still got a lot of developing to do, but he brings a little bit of everything to the table.
Jack Harris, '99, Prior Lake-Another big defenseman that's very raw right now, but has tons of upside. I thought he played very well here and I liked him a lot better than I did at the Minnesota Select 15 camp.
Graham Slaggert, '99, Chicago Mission- Nothing flashy, but just a really smart, solid hockey player.
Isaac Johnson. '99, Anoka HS-A very strong skater that projects as more of a two-way forward than a scorer. Made a lot of nice plays on Tuesday.
Austin Pratt, '99, Shattuck-St. Mary's-A huge future power forward. He was far and away the best player in the Bantam Elite League, where his size can dominate smaller players. Here, he didn't have as much of a physical advantage, and the up-and-down style of play didn't necessarily suit his game, but he still made some nice offensive plays in front of the net.
Erik Dahl, '99, Shattuck-St. Mary's-A huge defensive defenseman. Kids that are that big that early can be so hard to project. He's got pretty decent skills for his size though.
Ben Copeland, '99, Edina HS-Kind of quiet here, but he'll be a nice player in the future.
Trevor Mikyla, '99, Eagan HS- Mikyla is an interesting player because, listed at 5'9" 206 lbs(and the height feels more exaggerated than the weight)., he just doesn't look like he should be able to move as well as he does. He's very quick though, and makes good decisions with the puck.
Clayton Phillips, '99, Edina HS-More of a skater than a hockey player right now. He struggled a bit at times when he couldn't out-skate some of the older, faster competition at the camp, but he has the tools to be very good once he starts using his teammates better.
Jaxon Nelson, '00, Luverne HS-Nelson was the only Y2K birthdate here. He's huge and very strong for his age, so he held his own, though sometimes struggled with the pace of play. In the Bantam Elite League, it's pretty clear that Nelson and Minnetonka's K'Andre Miller will battle it out for best 2000 birthdate in the state. Comparing the two, Nelson has filled out physically a little bit more and is probably the better player right now, but Miller's soft hands allow him to play with a finesse dimension to his game as well, which might give him more upside for the future. Both are very talented for their age and should be fun to watch develop.
Former Shattuck goalie Evan Robert looked the strongest in the bits that I saw. Maple Grove's Brady Goodman made a couple highlight reel saves, though also gave up a few more goals than some of the other goalies, though also didn't receive as much help from his defense. Blaine's Ridge Gerads was strong in both games making a lot of saves. Minnesota commit Ryan Edquist, who will transfer from Shattuck-St. Mary's to Lakeville North this season, had a solid performance as well.