Friday, March 09, 2007

Individual Player Thoughts

I haven't had much of a chance to talk about the future college players and prospects playing in this tournament, so here's my thoughts:

Ryan Walters from St. Thomas Academy caught my eye immediately in the first game. He's tremendously talented for only being a freshman. He made some very nice passes and showed great hockey sense. He easily could have had 3 or 4 assists in the first game.

Aaron Crandall got off to a slow start on Wednesday, but played an exceptional third period. I think he'll be the state's best goalie next season.

Orono's goalie, Taylor Peterson maybe isn't as talented, but he's a battler that made some great saves. He was also a recipient of the High School Character Award. Hopefully he'll have an opportunity to play some hockey after high school.

Last year, I noted that Duluth Marshall's Bob Gutsch was a big hitter. This year, he still has that physical edge to his game, but he's also developed into more of a top line scorer. He showed great hands on Marshall's first goal Wednesday. I could see him following a path like his teammate last year, Rob Bordson, who went to the USHL, played well, and earned a college scholarship.

Also last year, I heard Grand Rapids' team talking about Jack Connolly during DM's game, but I wasn't overly impressed with him. This year, he looked outstanding. He's incredibly quick, and makes a lot of things happen.

Marshall defenseman Dano Jacques had a nice game on Wednesday, and then a huge game in the semifinals against St. Thomas. He's only a junior and he looks like he could definitely play college hockey some day.

Blake's Mike Louwerse(Minnesota State commit) played a pretty good game. For the second straight year, Marshall really keyed on him and forced Blake's other players to beat them. While he isn't particularly flashy at the high school level, I think his game will translate very well to college, because one of his best attributes is that he can make plays without a lot of time and space, which is the way you have to play in the WCHA.

Hermantown's Drew Leblanc was the star of the first day. He's got pretty good size, and was an all-conference football player, so he's strong and tough. He uses his size to his advantage as well. He's got very soft hands in front of the net. He should be a very good college player, wherever he ends up.

This was the most impressive performance I've seen from Jared Festler(St. Cloud commit) in the handful of times I've seen him. His ability to see the ice is just amazing. He made some jaw-dropping passes. He's not super-fast or very big, but he's stronger than he appears and is such a smart hockey player that he is able to compensate.

Ben Hanowski played a nice game for Little Falls. Since this is his third state tournament, and he's so skilled, it's easy to forget that he's only a 10th grader. His goal against Hermantown was a beautiful finish.

Sophomore defenseman Izaak Berglund played a very nice game for Little Falls. He does a nice job of stepping up and taking the body. He plays a lot of minute for LF, and should be a good college prospect.

In the final game on Wednesday, Aaron Marvin(St. Cloud commit) picked up two nice assists off of face-off wins. I've seen a lot of people being critical of his play, but there are also rumors that he's fighting an injury which is hurting his skating. When he gets the puck, he was sensational. He's an above average passer for someone his size.

Roseau was very impressive in their first round win against Woodbury. Aaron Ness drew the most praise from people in attendance. Roseau's Nick Oliver scored two very nice goals. I heard some scouts saying they were impressed by Tyler Landman. It's just amazing to see so many quality hockey players come from such a small town.

Joe Faupel was the hero for Rochester Century, but a lot of the credit really should to his senior linemates, Garrett Grimstad and Joe Knoepke. They're both excellent playmakers that see the ice so well. Faupel just has to go to the net and they find a way to get him the puck. Grimstad is going to the USHL after the season, and I wouldn't be surprised if Knoepke joined him in the USHL next year. Not only are they talented players, their coach couldn't have been more complimentary about them as hockey players.

Hill-Murray really struggled. Nick Larson wasn't noticeable at all on the ice, though it sounds like he was suffering from an injury. Given what I've seen him do in the past, I'm inclined to believe he wasn't 100%. Hill coach Bill Lechner talked about how many new, and young players Hill had on this year's team, and it was obvious that the nerves affected them. A lot of those talented young players should be back at the state tournament some day, and this experience should help them.

Grand Rapids/Edina was the biggest game of the day, and I saw a lot of scouts at the game.

Pat White(Minnesota commit) was easily the best player on the ice. He's incredibly strong, and a smart hockey player. I was very impressed.

I was just as impressed with Grand Rapids defenseman Joe Stejskal(Dartmouth commit). He was a solid defensive defenseman and has a huge shot. He played a big role in keeping Edina's talented players off the board.

Edina's Zach Budish impressed me again, even though he probably didn't have his best game. All 5 sophomores on Edina's second line could end up playing college hockey some day. The three forwards get a lot of press, but I was also impressed with defenseman Patrick Regan, who played a nice physical game.

In the final game on Thursday, I was impressed with the Blaine duo of Ben Lynch and Joe Beaudette. Lynch is small, but very fast. The duo made a lot of nice plays happen. They're both legitimate college propsects.

Tyler Barnes of Burnsville played a very nice game. He's small, but extremely quick. Defenseman Chris Franks is another good player. He reminded me a lot of St. Cloud commit Tyler Kieffer in the way that he played.