Monday, November 19, 2007

Mr. Hockey Candidates

The Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award is given out annually to the top senior high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota. Here is a list of past winners and finalists.

This year's crop is looking a little thin right now, mainly because my top three choices for the award, Little Falls' Jared Festler, White Bear Lake's Jake Hansen, and Virginia's Nico Sacchetti, have all opted to spend their senior year of high school playing in the USHL rather than playing high school hockey. There are still plenty of great candidates though, and here is a look at a few of them.

1. Jake Youso, Forward, International Falls HS, Committed to Minnesota

Youso is one of the smoothest skaters in the skate, and displays a great understanding of the game. The Broncos will miss goalie Brady Hjelle who is playing in the USHL this year, but Youso should be one of the state's best players.

2. Jake Gardiner, Defenseman, Minnetonka HS, Committed to Wisconsin

Gardiner made the move from forward to defense, and now, as a senior, he is considered one of the best defenseman in the state. He's another very smooth skater that can jump into the rush at any time. He's considered an "A" prospect by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau and some scouting sites have him listed as high as a first round pick, which is taken into consideration for this award.

3. Tyler Barnes, Forward, Burnsville HS, Committed to Wisconsin

Barnes has come out of nowhere ever since Burnsville's surprising upset of Holy Angels last season. He's a creative playmaker that works well with senior linemate Jake Hendrickson.

4. John O'Neill, Forward, Anoka HS, Committed to Minnesota-Duluth

O'Neill is one of the most complete players in the state. He may not stand out in any one particular area, but he does everything pretty well.

5. Adam Mueller, Forward, Roseville, Committed to Minnesota State

Mueller is one of the fastest skaters in the state, and has a great knack for picking up points. He was overshadowed a little bit last year by another Mr. Hockey candidate in Mike Dorr, but as Roseville's go-to-guy this year, Mueller could shine. At only 5'9" 160 lbs., he's at a little bit of a disadvantage with the NHL scouts, but that didn't stop another Roseville native, Marty Sertich, from taking home the award.

6. Drew Olson, Defenseman, Brainerd HS, Uncommitted

Olson is a talented defenseman that can do just about everything. He skates well, can play physical defense, makes nice outlet passes, and has a pretty strong shot. He, along with teammate Joe Frazer, should lead Brainerd to one of their stronger seasons in school history.

7. Justin Jokinen, Forward, Cloquest-Esko-Carleton, Uncommitted

Jokinen had a nice year last season playing alongside Colorado College's Tyler Johnson. This year, the big power forward will be on his own, but should do just fine. He's a very strong goal-scorer that should be one of the best players in the Northland.

8. Joe Gleason, Defenseman, Edina HS, Committed to North Dakota

Gleason is a talented puck-mover that should rack up a lot of assists feeding scorers like Zach Budish and Anders Lee. It may be tough for him to stand out on such a talented team though.

9. Chris Student, Defenseman, Benilde-St. Margaret's, Committed to Northeastern

Student is another talented puck-mover that got away from the WCHA when he committed to Northeastern last year. BSM lost some very talented forwards off of last year's team, which could hurt his offensive production, but he's one of the smarter defenseman in all of Minnesota.

10. Bryce Ravndalen, Forward, Warroad HS, Committed to St. Cloud

Ravndalen is a slippery stickhandler that made a name for himself last year playing with SCSU's Aaron Marvin. Marvin has graduated, but Ravndalen has improved to become one of the better playmakers in the state, and he should have a very big year.

Wildcard: Aaron Ness, Roseau, Committed to Minnesota

Ness is a bit of a wildcard in that he should be an 11th grader, but is accelerating through his senior year of high school to play for Minnesota next fall. It sounds like his academic progress will be monitored, and if he's deemed to be the equivalent of a high school senior, he will be eligible for the award. If he's eligible, Ness would have to be one of, if not the favorite for the award. He's a smooth skater and very smart hockey player that controls the game from the blueline.