The Minnesota girl’s high school hockey season begins on Thursday. For the past few years, I’ve put together a preseason watch list for the boys Mr. Hockey Award, given to the state’s top senior boys high school hockey player. This year, I thought I’d extend it to the girls side as well, with a look at ten candidates for this year’s Ms. Hockey Award.
The relative talent on the girls side is much higher than on the boys side. With no NTDP or junior hockey to siphon off top talent, and girls hockey not yet having the depth nationally that boys hockey does, a majority of the country’s top players will be playing high school hockey in Minnesota this year. Six players eligible for Ms. Hockey this year were members of last year’s gold medal-winning US women’s U18 world champions, so it’s a tremendously deep field.
Here’s my look at ten candidates to take home the award this year, led off by the preseason favorite, Grace Zumwinkle of Breck:
Grace Zumwinkle, Forward, Breck School(Minnesota)
Zumwinkle was one of three U18 players—along with Red Wing junior Taylor Heise— called up to practice with the US women’s national team prior to the Four Nations Cup, and she seemed to have no trouble fitting in. Zumwinkle is a tall, smooth skater with a powerful stride. She also has an elite-level shot which allows her to test goalies from greater distance than most of her peers.
She’ll be one of the key offensive threats for the US U18 team at the World Championships in the Czech Republic this year and the most dangerous high school player in Minnesota.
Grace Bowlby, Defenseman, Edina High School(Wisconsin)
Bowlby is an incredibly fluid, smooth skater. She can really control the game with her poise and patience with the puck. She’s made a big jump in development since last season, when she was already really good, and should be the best defenseman in the state this year.
Taylor Wente, Forward, Maple Grove High School(Minnesota)
Wente helped lead Maple Grove to last year’s AA state championship game, scoring the only goal in a shocking upset of Hill-Murray in the state semifinals. She thrives thanks to exceptional hockey sense that keeps her one step ahead of the competition and always in the right place to make a play.
Natalie Snodgrass, Forward, Eastview High School(Connecticut)
Snodgrass scored the golden goal in overtime of the World U18 championship game against Canada last winter. She’s incredibly effective in the offensive zone, especially when she can work from below the dots. She’s very strong on her stick making her difficult to knock off the puck, and has an excellent shot.
Mariah Gardner, Forward, Warroad High School(Minnesota State)
Gardner is the one player on this list I haven’t seen play, but she led the state of Minnesota in scoring last season with 80 points in the regular season, and another 13 in postseason play. She registered at least one point in every game. Another impressive statistical season like that should make her a finalist for this award.
Emily Brown, Defenseman, Blaine High School(Minnesota)
Brown misses the age cut-off to play for the national U18 team this year by two days after playing on last year’s gold medal winners, and the US will certainly miss her presence on the blue line.
Brown is a solid defender that handles the puck really well, and can create offense by herself with his ability to stickhandle the puck up the ice.
Joie Phelps, Forward, St. Paul United(Cornell)
Phelps has power forward size, and is a good skater, which is an incredibly difficult combination to defend against. He skill around the net allows her to finish off plays.
Naomi Rogge, Forward, Eden Prairie High School(Minnesota Duluth)
Rogge is an athletic, skilled playmaker that is quick and always around the puck to make plays.
Tristen Truax, Forward/Defenseman, Shakopee High School(Minnesota State)
Truax is listed as a forward by the Sabers, though she’s at her best when she plays defense like she did during the Elite League season, where she can use her offensive instincts and quick hands to create offense from the blue line.
Stella Haberman, Forward, Hopkins HS/Park(RIT)
Haberman is a fun player to watch because she’s a typical waterbug-type forward. She’s small, but really quick with good offensive skills that is very exciting when he she gets the puck.
Top Senior Goalie
There is also an award for top senior goalie in the state, which is likely a two-horse between Mound-Westonka’s Emma Polusny(St. Cloud State), and Maple Grove’s Breanna Blesi(Ohio State). Both are excellent goalies and it’s a true toss-up that could go either way.