The Minnesota high school hockey season officially begins with the first games of the season on Thursday evening. We already previewed some of the state's top older players with our Mr. Hockey watch list. But with more and more of the state's top players leaving the state for higher levels of hockey as upperclassmen, the attention of scouts at the next level is increasingly turning towards players in the younger grades looking to make a name for themselves.
Here is a look at some underclassmen beginning their high school hockey careers this season that could make an instant impact this winter.
Colin Schmidt-F-Wayzata-Schmidt is a big, tough power forward with good scoring ability. He hasn't drawn as much attention as some of the other top 2000-born prospects in the state, but that won't be the case for long.
Blake McLaughlin-F-Grand Rapids-McLaughlin hasn't played a high school game yet, but as already made a college commitment to the University of Minnesota. McLaughlin starred as a bantam last year and has only continued to develop, including an excellent performance with Team North in this fall's Elite League.
Keegan Karki-G-St. Cloud Cathedral-Karki is a very big goalie for a younger player. He played in the Elite League with Great Plains this fall, and has already visited some NCAA schools.
Lucas McGregor-F-Centennial-McGregor played in the Elite League this fall after leading a strong Centennial Bantam team last year. His speed will make him a tough match-up at the high school level.
Gavin Hain-F-Grand Rapids-Hain formed a dynamic duo with McLaughlin at the bantam level last season. He hasn't taken off in quite the same way McLaughlin has since last year, but he'll be a contributor at the high school level. He didn't look out of place at all playing in the Elite League this fall.
Dawson Klein-D-Lakeville South-Klein is a smooth-skating defenseman that handles the puck well.
Carter Randklev-F-Moorhead-Randklev is a strong, skilled forward. He's got a nice shot and can play a physical game.
Joey Petronack-D-Hill-Murray, Hayden Brickner-F-Centennial, Chase Hamstad-F-White Bear Lake, Taiyo Larson-D-Elk River, Garrett Freeman-F-Sartell, Andrew Marod-F-Little Falls, Carter Perry-F-Anoka
Trevor Janicke-F-Maple Grove-Janicke has already secured a scholarship to Notre Dame, where his dad played college hockey. Janicke is a fast skater and hard worker that put up a lot of points in the Elite D League this fall.
Ben Brinkman-D-Edina-Brinkman suffered a knee injury during high school which will keep him out most, if not all of the season. But when healthy, he's one of the best in the state in his age group.
Jackson Jutting-F-Prior Lake-Jutting is one of the top '01 birthdates playing in the state. A smart, all-around player with good offensive instincts.
Ben Helgeson-F-Hill-Murray-Helgeson transferred from Roseau to Hill-Murray and should skate a regular shift for the Pioneers. He's got the size to handle the older competition in high school hockey and the puckhandling ability to contribute offensively right away.
Grant Docter-D-Minnetonka-A smooth puck-handler that skates well. One of the better players off last year's great Minnetonka Bantam AA team.
Ryder Donovan-F-Duluth East, Jackson Perbix-F-Elk River, Jett Jungels-F-Edina