Minnesota Hockey held their first round of spring/summer development camps last weekend with their Spring Festival for both boys and girls at the 16(2001 birthdates) and 17(2000 birthdates) level.
The format of the tournament is that eight teams at each level are selected based on high school section. The eight teams play a tournament with each team getting three games. Following the Spring Festival, three teams are selected at each age group to compete in the Final 54 Camp later this month, with the top players from that camp then selected to participate in USA Hockey’s national development camps later this summer.
The level of play is quite high at these events and they’re heavily-scouted since they draw nearly all of the state’s top players. I wasn’t able to see everything over the three full days of play, but did see enough to have a few thoughts worth sharing:
The 17s are all 2000 birthdates this year, and this is the sorta-kinda start of the 2018 Draft year for most of these guys. (By my count, only 31 of the 160 players were born after the 9/15/00 cut-off date for next year's Draft, whereas in a perfectly even distribution, there should be about 47, perhaps an indictment of separating players by birth year.) That makes this camp a good place to start in creating a broad list of guys that will get watched next year, and eventually winnowed down as the year progresses.
Section 2 won the tournament. I saw both of their first two games and they absolutely dominated their opposition. There was a lot of size, speed, and physicality throughout their line-up. Leading the way was Eden Prairie's Jack Jensen(Minnesota), who I thought was maybe the best player at the camp. He was flying around the ice and dominating possession in both games I saw. He looked like a definite NHL draft pick next year.
Beyond Jensen, Section 2 was really deep at forward. Luke Loheit(Minnesota Duluth), Ryan Lesko, Tim Piechowski, Spencer Rudrud, and Joe Simon all played really fast, heavy games. Loheit is an NHL Draft watch list guy, as is Chaska forward Blaine Warnert, who is a legit 6'4" and while still very raw, has some decent skill.
On defense, Minnetonka's Grant Docter and Josh Luedtke are both really quick puck movers. Holy Family's Brady Ziemer is a rock on the blue line. Delano's Tanner Glasrud is incredibly raw, but is 6'7" and will probably draw some attention next year based on that.
I didn't get to see Section 7 play, but it's pretty impressive that they were able to make it to the championship game despite Blake McLaughlin(Minnesota) and Gavin Hain(North Dakota) not participating since they're playing in the USHL(Tier I and Tier II junior players are given an automatic pass to national camp, so they’ll still go to New York, and will likely be centerpieces on the US Ivan Hlinka Tournament team this summer). That northern section always seems to perform really well in this event.
As for other notable players, Rochester John Marshall's Xander Lamppa was the other player there that I would put in the 'very likely to be drafted' category with Jensen. He doesn't draw as much hype playing in Rochester, but I've always been impressed with him, and especially was here. He's got really quick feet for a player with his size and strength, which made him unstoppable along the boards. In the bits I saw of him, he wasn't finishing a lot, but was creating chances every shift.
Beyond that, there were a lot of 2018 guys I'd put in the 'Maybe' category: Devlin McCabe(UMD), Ben Helgeson(Wisconsin), Colin Schmidt(Minnesota), Bryce Brodzinski(SCSU), Isaiah DiLaura, Tyler Borsch. And there's bound to be a couple surprises throughout the coming year.
A few of the players that I really liked aren't eligible for the NHL Draft until 2019. Edina's Ben Brinkman(Minnesota) was maybe the top defenseman there. Few can match his combination of size and athleticism. North Branch's Brady Meyer continues to look like his ceiling is incredibly high. And Blaine's Will Hillman is a tremendous skater that makes a lot happen on the ice.
The 16s this year are all 2001 birthdates and this tournament serves as kind of a final check for players in their USHL Draft year.
I didn't get to see as much of the 16s as I would have liked, including winner Section 6 and runner-up Section 8. I imagine a high percentage of each team will be moving on to the Final 54 camp.
Shattuck's Grant Silianoff(Notre Dame) and Nik Norman(Minnesota) were two players that made extremely early college commitments, but were ultimately not invited to try out for the NTDP. I thought Norman was excellent, consistently creating chances. Silianoff was good too, though it does look like the rest of the field continues to catch up to him. Both should make the Final 54, and it will be interesting to see how they perform there.
Section 2 loaded up a top line with Jackson Jutting, Garrett Pinoniemi(SCSU), and Shane LaVelle, which was really fun to watch. I really liked LaVelle, who has a decent-sized frame, is a younger '01, and looks like he still has some room to fill out.
The other interesting name on Section 2's team was John Mittelstadt, younger brother of Casey. John has actually grown some over the past year, but is still listed at 5'6" 145 lbs. His older brother had a later growth spurt though. John isn't quite the player that Casey was, but you can definitely see some of the same puck skills that make Casey so effective, and he might be worth a USHL pick in the hopes that he develops later, similar to Casey, who was only a 5th round USHL Futures pick three years ago.
St. Thomas Academy's Ben Stucker looked really impressive here after having a quiet high school season on a deep St. Thomas Academy team. He's a big, strong kid that generated a lot of shots. STA's Rob Christy and Will Schimek are really nice players that should be USHL picks too.
Also of note, Greenway bantam forward Ben Troumbly committed to St. Cloud State shortly after this event. Should Troumbly some day matriculate to SCSU, I believe he would be the first player from Greenway to play D-1 men's college hockey since Gino Guyer and Andy Sertich, who graduated from Greenway in 2002. Troumbly's Bantam A team, which had another intriguing prospect in defenseman Christian Miller too, made it to the state tournament this year(though they split the season series with Hermantown’s Bantam AA team that “wasn’t good enough to justify Hermantown HS moving up to Class AA” :rolleyes:). They're part of an incredible renaissance for the Greenway program in recent years that has taken that program from the brink of extinction to being competitive once again.
Not a huge surprise that Section 5 rolled through this tournament, led by the Blake duo of Addie Burton(Minnesota) and Lily Delianedis, among others.
I thought Burton was a little quiet towards the end of the high school season, overshadowed on a very deep Blake team, but she was dominant here. Her combination of strength, skill, and quickness is pretty unmatched in her age group. She’s probably a year away from a spot on the national U18 team, but I could see her getting invited to the Maine camp and fitting into a role for the U18s.
Delianedis is an interesting player. She’s small, but extremely athletic and quick, and has great hockey sense. I’m not sure how that style of play would translate to the international level though, where the competition is a lot bigger and faster.
The other player off that Section 5 team likely to get a look from USA Hockey is Maple Grove’s Mannon McMahon(UMD), who is probably the best natural skater in the group.
The ‘01 that I think has the best chance of making the national team next winter is Edina defenseman Mallory Uihlein(Penn State). She’s strong and confident with the puck on her stick and moves it around the ice really well. The other defenseman that will likely get a look is East Ridge’s Addi Scribner(Ohio State). Her combination of strength and quick first step is really good, and she’s another player that handles the puck well.
Since women’s commitment news tends to travel slower, Scribner along with Edina forward Annie Kuehl(Princeton) and Cretin-Derham Hall forward Emily King(RPI) all made commitments after their high school season ended in March. They were probably the three best uncommitted sophomores in the state prior to choosing their college.
I had only seen Northfield’s Kate Boland(Bemidji State) play on television during the state tournament prior to this, and that’s hard to judge, but she was impressive at this event. She’s a great athlete that can push the puck up the ice. The Beavers do a really nice of job of finding sneaky good hockey players for a program that isn’t able to recruit out of the top tier of players.
Again, didn’t get to see as much of this group as I would have liked. Section 1 defeated Section 5 for the title. The talent level on each side was pretty incredible. Between Gracie Ostertag(Minnesota) and Taylor Heise(Minnesota) on Section 1, and Madeline Wethington(Minnesota) on Section 5, there were a combined 6 U18 gold medals in the championship game, with a couple players on each side that should be in the conversation to play on next year’s U18 team too.
It’s also worth noting that Blake and Edina each had seven girls make their respective district rosters, with Blake also placing three in the 16s and Edina placing five. Those two teams should be head-and-shoulders above everyone else during next year’s high school season. With Blake being placed in Section 6AA with Edina next season, that means it’s likely the second straight year that Blake’s state championship game will be their section final rather than in St. Paul.