The Edina Holiday Classic concluded last Saturday, as it usually does, with the marquee match-up of Classic Lake Conference rivals Edina and Eden Prairie. Braemar Arena's big rink has a capacity of 3600 people, and was nearly full, with both sidelines completely packed, and the end zone mostly full. The crowd was electric, both teams were talented, deep, and playing pretty good hockey. It was everything fun about high school hockey.
It was a tight game the whole way through. Eden Prairie tied the game at 3 with about six minutes left in regulation, and the game seemed like it was heading to overtime--and I think most people were hoping for overtime, just so they could see more--but Edina's Tyler Nanne scored with 1:22 left to give Edina the lead. Eden Prairie threatened with second left, but Edina held on to remain the only Class AA team with a perfect record(They've since lost a game).
I really liked Eden Prairie heading into the season, ranking them second in the state behind only Benilde-St. Margaret's, and largely, they've been a huge disappointment, with a record of only 4-4-1. But as much as they struggled in terms of results, I really liked what I saw out of them. They played the best team in the state right down to the wire and very easily could have come away with the win. It's also worth noting that they did so while playing without top line forward Andrew Knudsen, and losing another senior forward in John Sullivan very early in the game to injury, which forced them to shuffle their lines around.
Individually, Mason Bergh and Steven Spinner(Nebraska-Omaha commit) were excellent on the top line. Bergh scored the game's first goal, and had numerous other quality chances, taking clean face-off wins from Spinner and firing a quick wrist shot. They were very good together all night. With Eden Prairie missing some older players, freshman Michael Graham got a lot of ice time, and looked very good. I wasn't familiar with him before this, but he definitely looks like a player to watch.
On defense, the Eagles have two D-1 commits in Luc Snuggerud(UNO) and Hunter Warner(Minnesota State). Both players miss being in this year's NHL Draft by about a week, but should be on the radar for the 2014 draft. Snuggerud is an offensive defenseman that is a good skater, and has a big shot. He sometimes gambles a little too much one-on-one when he's the last D back with the puck, but also gets away with it pretty frequently because he has good hands. Warner isn't as good with the puck, but he's one of the strongest players in high school hockey. It's rare, if ever, that he loses a physical battle along the boards.
Edina, meanwhile, is the top team in the state, and for good reason. Their depth at forward is about as good as I've seen in high school. That said, the one thing I was most interested in seeing is how good they were on the blue line after their two D-I defensemen in Parker Reno(RPI) and Matt Nelson(Princeton), and overall, I thought they looked a little vulnerable there. Of course, that might be nit-picking to say they only have two of the best defensemen in the state.
The night was a little light on college coaches, which meant most of the scouts in the building were of the NHL variety, there to see Edina junior standout Connor Hurley. There's no doubt Hurley is a dynamic skater. He created Edina's first goal while on the penalty kill, when he outraced an Eden Prairie D down the ice to a cleared puck, and passed it over to a teammate for an easy goal. One of the concerns about Hurley is his lack of strength and ability to handle physical play, but that hasn't been as big an issue for me so far this season. Granted, he's playing high schoolers in a league known for its lack of hitting, but I think he's handled what physical play he's seen fairly well. The big concern for me is that at times, he seems almost afraid to shoot the puck. He's a phenomenal passer, but there were definitely times that he was almost dared to shoot, and didn't, or only would as a last resort. The few times he did shoot, his shot wasn't great. That's a concern, but does seem like something he could improve with time. Overall, I didn't move him much one direction or the other on my draft list after this game.