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Minnesota Final 54/CCM NIT Recap

Breaking down one of the busiest hockey weekends of the year.

This past weekend was one of the biggest scouting weekends of the year in the state of Minnesota. The Plymouth Ice Center hosted final round of tryouts for the National Select Festivals this summer in New York with their High Performance 16s('97 birthdates) and High Performance 17s(for '96 birthdates), as well as the CCM NIT, which is a showcase tournament for high school players from around the country.

With all that talent, the event is pretty heavily scouted by NCAA, Junior, and NHL teams. I was there from about 8am to10pm on Saturday, and here were my thoughts.

High Performance 16

My picks for New York:

Forward- Mark Kaske, Tanner Tweten, Matthew Freytag, Max Zimmer, Lawrence Jungwirth, Peter Tufto, Chase Jungels, Christiano Versich, Jared Bethune, Brock Boeser, Will Garin, David Brumm

Defense- Ben Newhouse, Jordan Klehr, Jason Krych, Jack Ahcan, Tye Ausmus, Sam Franta, AJ Robbel, Colin Saccoman

Goalie- Evan Robert, Zach Driscoll

This is an interesting group to watch. There aren't any really high-end prospects in the bunch--the best pro prospect of the bunch, the big and athletic, but raw Colin Gallagher wasn't here--but just about everybody was what I would consider a very good prospect. It's a very deep group, and some very tough choices are going to have to be made.

Defense was particularly tough. I couldn't narrow it down past those past eight names, and really, there were plenty outside that top eight that could be selected and it wouldn't surprise. It's very reminiscent of the '95 birth year, where nobody is rated particularly high for this year's NHL Draft, but there are 10-12 players with D-1 commitments.

Mark Kaske was the best forward of the group. He had kind of a quiet HS season playing behind some older players at Benilde, but he was very good here. There's still a few open NTDP spots, and he might not be a bad add.

Evan Robert was the best goalie both of the past two weekends.The second spot is pretty wide open. Driscoll was very good, as was Bemidji's Grant Tharaldson, and Wayzata's Vaughn Ahrens has a lot of upside.

High Performance 17

My picks for New York

Forward- Austin Poganski, Will Hammer, Jack Murphy, Jake Wahlin, Chase Phelps, Dylan Malmquist, Cullen Munson, John Peterson, Lukas Gillett, Andrew Zerban

Defense- Travis Brown, Jack Walker, Griffin Slightham, Jack Dougherty, Tyler Nanne, Hayden Shaw

Goalies- Robbie Goor, Gabe Heifort

Again, lots of strong players, though perhaps not as deep as the 16s were. That's a bit understandable given that expectations are a little higher as players get older, and some of the top players in this group--Jack Glover, Paul Bittner, Keegan Iverson, Shane Gersich, Jake Cass, Ryan Collins--didn't participate due to Junior A commitments.

This was sort of the unofficial start of the 2014 NHL Draft season, and many of the local NHL scouts were in attendance here. This should be a stronger year in the draft for Minnesotans than this past season.

At forward, Austin Poganski, Will Hammer, and Chase Phelps all look like pretty solid draft prospects. Jack Murphy was really good both weekends, and impressed a lot of people. John Peterson played very well both weekends as well.

On defense, I think the top five names were pretty clearly ahead of the pack and are all on the draft radar for next year, and the sixth spot is pretty much a toss-up between a lot of good players. Northfield's Logan Von Ruden was a player I wasn't familiar with prior to this, but he's a legit 6'2" and skates very well.

Goal tending is always a mess at this age group, just because of the way skaters develop at an earlier age than goalies, but the goal tending was actually pretty decent here; much better than it has been in some years. Goor and Heifort were probably the strongest in the bits I saw. Chase Perry probably has the most talent of the bunch, but didn't have his strongest performances here. It's an extremely small sample size for goalies though, so it's tough to choose.

CCM NIT

Team Massachusetts struggled all weekend, but goalie Colin Soucy put on an incredible show against Team Wisconsin, making 50 saves in a 4-0 loss. Soucy is a '96 birthdate, and put himself on the radar of a lot of teams with that performance.

Team Michigan didn't have some of the high-end talent that they brought last year when they won this tournament, but gave another strong performance, upsetting the Minnesota U18 team(who was missing some big players Saturday night), en route to a second place finish in the tournament. Their best talent was on the blue line, with big D Joseph Carney, offensive D Andrew Roye, and Connor Duncan. All three had nice USHL/future D-I potential. I liked forward Brad Milks too, and defenseman Nicholas Daigneau scored a couple nice goals.

Off Team Wisconsin, I liked captain Daniel Tripicchio, forward Griff Jeska, and forward Jake Bresser.

From Team North Dakota, Alec Rauhauser played well, but probably not quite well enough that he gets taken in the NHL Draft this summer. St. Cloud recruit Jacob Benson was the team's most dangerous offensive threat. He's a pretty strong kid that is tough to knock off the puck and has some good scoring touch. Jon Lizotte is a steady player that should find a junior hockey spot somewhere next season.

The MN U18('95 birthdates eligible to play HS hockey next year) team played without Johnny Austin, Spencer Naas, and Chris Pohlkamp on Saturday night, which really hurt them. There was still a lot of speed on this team though. Tyler Sheehy was really, really good. Steve Spinner and Westin Michaud made a lot of things happen too, and I thought Cole Bjugson had a strong game. Teemu Kivihalme played well, but didn't really sway my opinion on his draft stock all that much. I still like his upside, but think Central Scouting had him a little too high.

The Minnesota Senior team was pretty dominant all weekend. Leading the way was Michigan Tech recruit Jake Jackson, who seems to have improved his skating a little bit, and is still a dangerous scoring threat, especially when he gets in close to the net. I still don't know if it will be enough for him to get drafted this summer, but he's helped his case. Really, everybody looked pretty good here. All 12 forwards probably have the potential to play in the USHL.