The fall Elite League season is over, and the Minnesota girl’s high school hockey season has officially begun, with games starting in about a week. As a way of previewing some of the state’s top players, for the second consecutive year, I put together a list of ten candidates to win this year’s Ms. Hockey Award, given annually to the state’s top senior girls’ hockey player.
Once again, there is a rather clear-cut favorite to win the award, but also some incredible depth in the class of 2018. Here are our picks:
- Taylor Heise, Forward, Red Wing(Committed to Minnesota)
Heise’s international resume speaks for itself. She has already captured two gold medals with Team USA at the World U18 championships, and this winter, will look to become one of just four players, and the only forward, to win three gold medals at the event. She captained the U18 team at this summer’s U18 Series against Canada, and will be looked upon as one of the cornerstones of the US offense this winter. Heise has also already skated with the women’s national team in pre-tournament camps to help groom her for a future.
Heise has a distinctive, mechanical, almost uncomfortable-looking skating style, but what it lacks in grace, it makes up for in effectiveness. She’s by far the fastest player in the state, which puts her in the running for fastest player in the world in her age group. She plays the game a step ahead of everyone else, and is a threat to take the puck end-to-end any time she gets it, even against Elite League all-star teams.
She doesn’t quite have the shot of Grace Zumwinkle, but she does have a booming slap shot making her a threat to score from distance. She scored 45 goals last season for Red Wing, good for fourth overall in the state, and should be one of the top goal scorers in the state again this year.
2. Gabbie Hughes, Forward, Centennial(Committed to Minnesota Duluth)
Hughes has always been a top player in this age group, she was a member of last year’s gold medal-winning U18 national team, but started to separate herself from the rest of the pack with a strong performance this fall in the Elite League. There’s not a lot of subtlety to Hughes’ game. She’s strong and fast, which she uses to drive the puck hard to the net, and she’s always looking for opportunities to use her above-average shooting ability.
3. Emily Oden, Forward, Edina(Committed to Minnesota)
Oden may not even end up as the leading scorer on Edina’s loaded roster this year—she finished third in team scoring last year—but she is one of the main drivers of their offense. She’s a very complete offensive player that is equally able to score goals herself or set up teammates.
4. Anneke Linser, Forward, Centennial(Committed to Minnesota Duluth)
Linser forms the other half of Centennial’s dynamic duo with Hughes. Linser is more of the pass-first playmaker of the two. She’s a taller forward with exceptional puck-handling ability, and is excellent at moving the puck to teammates.
5. Lizi Norton, Defenseman, Orono(Committed to Minnesota Duluth)
Outside of Taylor Heise, Norton is maybe the best pure skater in the state. She’s got a strong, fluid stride and is excellent on her edges, which allows her to control the game from the blue line.
6. Abigail Boreen, Forward, Hill-Murray(Committed to Minnesota)
Boreen is a tenacious workhorse forward. She is excellent at pursuing pucks on the defensive end, and outworks opponents to create opportunities on the offensive end.
7. Samantha Burke, Forward, St. Paul United(Committed to Cornell)
There are a lot of similarities between Burke and her teammate last year, Joie Phelps. Both are taller forwards that are capable of playing a power forward game, but also have the skill to create offense in open ice. Both committed to play college hockey at Cornell. And there’s a good possibility of Burke joining Phelps as a Ms. Hockey semifinalist later this year.
8. Sara McClanahan, Forward, Blake School(Committed to Dartmouth)
It can be difficult for a player to stand out on a team as loaded as Blake. The Bears are loaded with young forwards, many of whom have already made college commitments before their 10th grade season starts, and have the early front-runner for next year’s Ms. Hockey on the blue line in Madeline Wethington. But McClanahan is a leader on the forward group. She’s a smart, creative playmaker that makes those around her better, and is an important piece in Blake’s offense.
9. Maggie Flaherty, Defenseman, Lakeville North(Committed to Minnesota Duluth)
Flaherty is a strong defender that plays an effective, responsible game. She’s not a flashy player, but does everything very well, and showed off her versatility when she made the US U18 Summer Series team as a forward.
10. Catie Skaja, Forward, New Prague(Committed to Minnesota)
Skaja is an excellent skater that uses her speed to create space and scoring opportunities. She was a member of last year’s U18 gold medal-winning team.
Madison Bizal, D, Elk River(Ohio State)
Lolita Fidler, F, Edina(Harvard)
Madison Oelkers, F, Warroad(Minnesota State)
Paetyn Levis, F, Rogers(Ohio State)
Claire Butorac, F, Andover(Minnesota State)
Crystalyn Hengler, D, Eden Prairie(Minnesota)
Claudia Verkerke, F, White Bear Lake(Bemidji State)
Allie Cornelius, F, St. Cloud(St. Cloud State)
Ellie Moser, F, Farmington(Bemidji State)
Gabby Billing, F, Breck(Dartmouth)
Gabby Rosenthal, F, Blaine(Ohio State)