The boy’s fall Elite League concluded last weekend with their annual National Invitational Tournament, which means it is almost time for the Minnesota boy’s high school hockey season to begin.
As is an annual tradition here in advance of the high school season, we’ve put together a list of 10 candidates for this year’s Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, given to the state’s top senior hockey player.
This year’s race was blown wide open when, on the first official day of the high school season, presumptive favorite Blake McLaughlin announced that he would be staying in the USHL rather than returning to Grand Rapids for his senior season.
There’s still a clear-cut favorite to win the award in my mind, but I think it’s much more open to interpretation than it was last week, given that there is no longer a potential high NHL Draft pick in the class.
The depth in this class is a bit lacking, thanks in part to the usual players leaving for junior hockey opportunities, and also because, as I’ve noted in the past, there seems to have been a disproportionate number of elite players in the 2000 age group born in the latter stages of the year, meaning they’re juniors ineligible for the award.
Here are our ten candidates for the award:
- Sammy Walker, Forward, Edina High School(Committed to Minnesota)
With Blake McLaughlin opting to stay in the USHL this season, Walker became the favorite for this award. Already drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round of last summer’s NHL Draft, Walker took his game to the next level this fall with one of the most impressive Elite League performances since Jake Jaremko in 2014.
Walker has explosive speed and good creativity with the puck that makes him extremely dangerous in the offensive zone. He’ll lead an Edina team that should be one of the strongest in the state.
2. Carter Randklev, Forward, Moorhead High School(Uncommitted)
Randklev was one of the catalyst’s in Moorhead’s surprising run to the state championship game last year, and he will likely lead the Spuds, who returned a large percentage of last year’s roster, on another run at a state title this year.
Randklev is a smaller player, but deceptively strong and plays much bigger than his size. He plays with grit and toughness and has an exceptional shot.
Previously committed to Arizona State, Randklev’s strong start in the USHL earned him some college options closer to home. Randklev has decided to re-open his recruitment, and will likely make a decision during the high school season.
3. Lucas McGregor, Forward, Centennial High School(Uncommitted)
McGregor had an interesting summer/fall as he tried to decide between spending his senior season with Central Illinois in the USHL, or returning to Centennial for his senior season. McGregor initially decided on playing the whole season in the USHL, before wavering in the summer when it was announced that Centennial would participate in Hockey Day Minnesota, then deciding on a full year in the USHL, and ultimately, deciding to return to Centennial for his senior season two weeks ago.
Now that he is back in high school hockey, he should be the top forward threat on a team expected to be highly ranked all season. McGregor is an excellent skater with game-breaking speed that should put up big point total this year.
4. Colin Schmidt, Forward, Wayzata High School(Committed to Minnesota)
Schmidt’s combination of huge size, smooth puck-handling, and heavy shot have made him a highly-touted prospect from a young age, earning him a scholarship offer to Minnesota, and putting him on the radar for the NHL Draft.
Schmidt hasn’t quite put it all together to be a dominating player at the high school level. He may not even lead his own team in scoring this year—the talented Griffin Ness, who wasn’t blessed with Schmidt’s size, but is extremely skilled and a Mr. Hockey candidate in his own right would be the favorite there—but his long-term upside is sure to draw intrigue from a number of voters.
5. Demetrios Koumontzis, Forward, Edina High School(Committed to Arizona State)
Koumontzis returns to Edina this year, where he played bantam hockey, after a two-year hiatus playing AAA hockey in Arizona. An injury that required surgery led to a disappointing season last year, but Koumontzis appears to be healthy now, and once again one of the top players in his age group.
Koumontzis finished as the Elite League’s leading scorer, averaging 2.33 points per game. A continuation of that scoring prowess during the high school season could put him on the NHL Draft radar.
6. Luke Loheit, Forward, Minnetonka High School(Committed to Minnesota Duluth)
Loheit’s offensive statistics may not immediately jump off the page, but his combination of size, skating ability, and ability to make plays all over the ice has certainly drawn the attention of scouts. He has made a commitment to Minnesota Duluth and is a potential late round draft pick in this summer’s NHL Draft.
7. Ben Almquist, Forward, Holy Family Catholic(Committed to Wisconsin)
Almquist made the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, but the Wisconsin commit opted to return to Holy Family for his senior season. Almquist is a smaller, speedy forward that has a great handle on the puck. His combination of speed and puck-handling allows him to be a very effective offensive player at the high school level.
8. Luke LaMaster, Defenseman, Duluth East High School(Uncommitted)
Duluth East has a deep, veteran team this year, which could make it difficult to pick out a single candidate for an individual honor. Talented scorer Garrett Worth or heavy physical presence Ian Mageau could just as easily be finalists. The most talented player on their team, North Dakota commit Ryder Donovan, is a junior and thus not eligible for the award.
But I went with LaMaster, who has been a rock on the Greyhounds blue line for the past three seasons. In a year with few standout senior defensemen, there’s a better chance for LaMaster to separate himself with his leadership from the back end.
9. Ray Christy, Forward, St. Thomas Academy(Colorado College)
Another player that may have trouble distinguishing himself from equally qualified teammates. While teammate Payton Matsui is more of a finisher, it is Christy’s above average ability to see the ice and create opportunities that should really drive St. Thomas Academy’s offense in key moments this season.
10. Tyler Borsch, Defenseman, Maple Grove High School(Uncommitted)
Borsch is a jack-of-all-trades defenseman that doesn’t stand out as elite in any one area, but does everything pretty well. He’s got very smooth skating and the ability to move laterally well. That, combined with improved strength makes him a tough defender, and he handles the puck well enough to contribute offensively. He’ll take over the role of graduated veteran defenseman Jack Kelly and lead Maple Grove from the blue line this season.
Brady Ziemer, Defenseman, Holy Family(St. Cloud State)
Jack Olsen, Defenseman, Lakeville South
Garrett Worth, Forward, Duluth East
Payton Matsui, Forward St. Thomas Academy
Tyler Watkins, Forward, Hermantown
Joe Molenaar, Forward, Minnetonka