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2016-2017 Mr. Hockey Watch List

Casey Mittelstadt and some other guys, I guess

CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Every year, we put together a watch list of ten players that are potential finalists for that season’s Mr. Hockey award, given annually to the state of Minnesota’s top senior high school hockey player. We’ll do the same this year, though if we’re being honest, only out of a sense of a tradition.

Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt is going to win the award this year, no discussion. He’s been one of the most dynamic, dangerous scoring threats in a very long time in his first two seasons of high school hockey. He might have won this award last year if he had been eligible by choosing to finish high school a year early; he certainly would have had my vote. He’s established himself as successful in junior hockey, and on an international stage. He’s likely to go in the first round of this year’s NHL Draft. Nobody else’s resume will even come close to his.

A lot of what I wrote last year about Riley Tufte holds true this year for Mittelstadt as well. If there’s a difference, it’s that Tufte came back to Minnesota in the winter licking his wounds a bit from a slow start in the USHL with some big things to work on. That’s not the case for Mittelstadt, who was leading the USHL in scoring at the time of his return to Eden Prairie. He really doesn’t have anything he needs to prove as a hockey player. He’s back for one reason and one reason alone:

There’s little to no doubt that Mittelstadt will walk away with Minnesota high school hockey’s top individual honor, same as past Eden Prairie greats like Kyle Rau and Nick Leddy did. He’s a special player, and it’s incredibly rare to see this type of talent playing high school hockey as a senior. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to raise a state title at the end of the season the same way Rau and Leddy did. But it will be a lot of fun, and a true privilege, to see him try.

Here’s our list of ten potential finalists for this year’s award, as well as some thoughts on the top senior defenseman in the state and top senior goalie.

  1. Casey Mittelstadt, Forward, Eden Prairie High School(Minnesota)

Any comparisons made with Mittelstadt are done on an historic level. My range of knowledge doesn’t quite date back to Blake Wheeler, but I can’t think of a more exciting player in that timeframe. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the puck and has a natural finishing ability that is incredibly rare.

2. Dylan Samberg, Defenseman, Hermantown High School(Minnesota Duluth)

Samberg is a bit of a late-bloomer, if you can say that about a kid that hasn’t turned 18 yet. But his big, athletic frame made him highly recruited over the summer before his hometown team swooped in with a late offer to pick him up. NHL Central Scouting listed him as a ‘B’ prospect(potential 2nd-3rd round pick), which seems a bit generous, but with his natural tools, he’s definitely in line to be drafted somewhere. His offensive game is still developing, so he might not put up a ton of points, but as the next-best NHL prospect after Mittelstadt in high school hockey this year, he’ll be among the finalists.

3. Noah Cates, Forward, Stillwater High School(Minnesota Duluth)

You might remember Cates from scoring the greatest goal in Minnesota high school hockey history. Cates should be the offensive leader on a very deep, experienced Stillwater team that will be one of the best in the state this year. He still needs to fill out a bit, but he’s got exceptional offensive abilities.

4. John Stampohar, Defenseman, Grand Rapids High School(Uncommitted)

Stampohar is a really underrated defenseman. He’s a smooth skater, and his vision and passing ability is a real asset. He hasn’t drawn much buzz in regards to the NHL Draft, but he’s the type of player that I think will continue to rise throughout the year and has a decent shot at being drafted.

5. Ben Meyers, Forward, Delano-Rockford(Maine)

Delano-Rockford isn’t usually known as a high school hockey powerhouse, but they look to have an incredibly strong team this year, led by the speedy, skilled Meyers. His ability to handle the puck and make plays at top speed sets him apart from other top forwards in the state. Meyers recently committed to play college hockey at Maine.

6. Matt Anderson, Defenseman, Holy Family Catholic(Minnesota Duluth)

It feels like Anderson has been playing high school forever. This will be his fifth year of varsity hockey after starting with the Fire as an 8th grader in 2012-2013. Anderson is a steady presence on the blue line that excels at distributing the puck to teammates.

7. Micah Miller, Forward, Grand Rapids High School(St. Cloud State)

Miller has always been a fast, tough, hard-working player, but towards the end of last year’s high school season, he really started to show some impressive offensive playmaking abilities as well. If he continues scoring for what should be an excellent Thunderhawks team, he should earn a lot of consideration as a finalist.

8. Ryan Sandelin, Forward, Hermantown High School(Minnesota State)

Sandelin is a really strong skater and smart, responsible player. He can really shoot the puck which should allow him to score a lot of goals this year. He’s on the outside fringes of being an NHL Draft pick, and while he likely won’t get picked, he’s close enough that it should help him become a finalist for this award.

9. Nick Perbix, Defenseman, Elk River High School(St. Cloud State)

Perbix took a big step forward in his development last season. He’s always had good size, but he really improved his mobility in the past year, which earned him a scholarship offer to St. Cloud State and will get him looked at by NHL teams this season.

10. Keaton Pehrson, Defenseman, Lakeville North(Michigan Tech)

Pehrson is an incredibly smooth skater that can control the game from the blue line with his feet. He’s a strong reliable defender and can move the puck up the ice. NHL Central Scouting has him rated as a ‘C’ skater(late rounds) for this year’s Draft.

Reed Larson Award

I think Dylan Samberg is the favorite, just because he’s the most likely to be drafted this summer. There’s a pretty deep class behind him though of defensemen that are very good, but not quite great including Stampohar, Anderson, Perbix, Pehrson, Elk River’s Benton Maass, Moorhead’s Carson Kosobud, Lakeville South’s Josh Ess, and Prior Lake’s Jack Harris.

Frank Brimsek Award

Hill-Murray’s JJ Begley is likely the favorite heading into the season. Cretin-Derham Hall’s Mike Magnuson had an incredible finish to last season in the section playoffs and had amazing statistics in the Elite League, though it’s tougher for a goalie to win this award if he’s not playing on a top-ranked team.