The Minnesota State Boy’s Class AA High School Hockey Tournament begins today, with eight of the state’s best programs facing off for the glory of a state title.
It is expected to be another fantastic with Minnetonka and Edina looking like heavy favorites, but a very deep field won’t make it easy for either team.
This is a great showcase for some of the state’s top players, and there are a number of excellent prospects this year. Here are a few of the players to watch in this year’s tournament.
Players to Watch: The core of this Minnetonka team is a group that dominated at the Bantam level and are now upperclassmen. The leading scorer is Denver commit Bobby Brink, who has really smooth hands and natural scoring ability. The two other college commits on the roster are UMD recruit Luke Loheit, a big power forward, and Josh Luedtke, a small, puck-moving defenseman that committed to Northern Michigan during the season.
The Skippers are deep though, with many players that will definitely get looks in junior hockey. Senior Joe Molenaar is a great shooter. Jack Bayless is an excellent passer. Teddy Lagerback is a speedy player with good hands. And defenseman Grant Docter has always been a personal favorite for his mobility on the blue line.
The one thing the Skippers lack is a top-end goalie in net, which almost cost them trip to the tournament in the section final, but they’ve got the type of talent that can control play and keep the puck on the other end of the ice.
Players to Watch: Edina is the most talented team in the tournament. Sammy Walker(Minnesota) is the favorite to win Mr. Hockey this weekend. Linemate Demetrios Koumontzis is also a finalist. Junior defenseman Ben Brinkman(Minnesota) might have won Mr. Hockey if he had been eligible. There isn’t another player in the state with his combination of strength and athleticism. In all, six players are currently committed to NCAA schools, and a handful more will likely make commitments at some point in the future.
What makes Edina so elite is the pure speed that they can attack with. In addition to Walker and Koumontzis, forwards Mason Nevers, Jett Jungels(Northern Michigan), and Lewis Crosby are all exceptional skaters. On the blue line, Mike Vorlicky(Wisconsin), Jake Boltmann(Minnesota) and Mason Reiners are all great skaters too.
This Edina team might be one of the best skating, fastest high school teams I’ve ever seen, and the pace at which they are able to play could potentially overwhelm the field.
#3 Duluth East
Players to Watch: The Duluth East offense starts with Mr. Hockey finalist Garrett Worth, who had an incredible 38 goals during the regular season. He’ a smaller forward, but has a great knack for creating offense. Setting him up is North Dakota recruit Ryder Donovan, a big forward with a great first step that has struggled to finish plays this year, but has had a ton of success setting up Worth. Their standout defenseman is Wisconsin commit Luke LaMaster, a big, solid D that is a strong physical presence on the blue line.
Duluth East doesn’t have a lot more for serious NCAA prospects. But what they do have is a lot of really tough, aggressive players that play an incredibly physical game. They can grind teams down with their physicality, something that might be the only hope in this tournament of stopping Edina’s incredible speed.
#4 St. Thomas Academy
Players to Watch: St. Thomas Academy always has a very deep team. Leading scorer Payton Matsui is a natural finisher with a great shot. Feeding him are brothers Ray and Rob Christy, both committed to Colorado College. The Christy brothers both display excellent hockey sense.
Also committed to Colorado College is the team’s top-scoring defenseman Chase Foley. The Cadets don’t get much other scoring from the blue line, but defenseman Tommy Winges is an excellent skater, while Will Schimek can impact the game with his size.
Players to Watch: The Cougar offense relies heavily on their top line of Lucas McGregor-Jack Menee-Carter Wagner. McGregor, a Mr. Hockey finalist, is a terrific skater. Though he isn’t much of a playmaker, he can create a lot with his feet. Wagner is a big forward with great finishing ability, and Menne complements both well with a solid all-around game. Hayden Brickner is a gritty grinder that leads their secondary scoring.
Junior defenseman Will Francis is a huge defenseman that has become a D-1 prospect in the past year as he has continued to grow into his body.
Centennial doesn’t have a ton of high-end D-1 propsects, and don’t always play the prettiest game, but they have a lot of veteran players that are big and fast, which will make them tough out in this tournament.
Players to Watch: It’s a relatively down year for Hill-Murray by their own high standards, but there’s still a lot of talent here. Ben Helgeson(Wisconsin) is a strong, speedy forward that will lead their offense. They’ll also get some offense on the blue line from Brett Oberle(UMD) who is a very good all-around defenseman and Joey Petronack, who is an excellent smaller puck-moving defenseman.
The player to really keep an eye on will be 8th grader Nick Pierre, who was called up for eight varsity games late in the regular season and scored eight goals and 11 points. He has the potential to be exceptional.
Players to Watch: Lakeville North always plays a very fast, aggressive game. They’re a team that can win with their speed or they can win in a slugfest.
Top forwards include Spencer Schneider and Shane Griffin, who are both really strong, tough players. Defenseman Garrett Daly(Bowling Green) moves well and is excellent at distributing the puck from the blue line, as is defenseman Ryan Antonakis. Sophomore Mitchell Kohner has had a quiet year statistically, but is a player with lots of talent.
Players to Watch: The Knights are making their first ever Tourney appearance, but it’s no fluke. They’ve been building towards this for a number of years and have some really good players. Their leader scorer is sophomore Adam Flammang, who is also an excellent lacrosse player. Sophomore Luc Laylin, son of former Gopher Cory Laylin, is a small but very speedy forward. Rounding out the top line is senior captain Blake Spetz.