Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017-18 Class AA Favorites to Win State Title

As we approach the start of the 2017-18 high school hockey season, varsity rosters are now set in place after all the smoke has cleared on early departures to junior leagues and transfers. Presented below are the five teams that Minn Puck believes will be favored to win the larger class title this season, along with key players to watch this season, and scoring projections.



Edina Hornets
Section 6

2016-17 Regular Season Record: 18-6-1

The pre-season consensus top pick of 2017-18 to win it all, and for good reason. The Edina Hornets bring a stacked team this season both offensively and defensively. There are two perennial Mr. Hockey finalists on many pundit short lists in Sam Walker and newcomer Demetrios Koumontzis, returning to Minnesota from the Phoenix Coyotes Junior Under 16 team to play his final season of prep hockey. Walker is the majority favorite to win the award now that Gophers recruit Blake McLaughlin from Grand Rapids decided to stay in the USHL for his senior season.  The knock against Koumontzis will be that he skipped out on his high school hockey career until this year, which may rub purists the wrong way when it comes time to vote at season's end. Walker and Koumontzis are joined by Lewis Crosby, Jett Jungels, Bram Scheerer, and Mason Nevers upfront. The team is anchored defensively by Ben Brinkman and Jake Boltmann. This is a team destined to score a lot of goals and not have many goals against. Edina will be at Xcel Energy Center in March. Another playoff upset isn't going to happen this year, although section rival Wayzata looks to bring a stronger team to the table this year.

Key Players to Watch:
  • Sam Walker, Forward, Minnesota commit, 7th round 2017 NHL Draft pick of the Tampa bay Lightning.
    2016-17 Stats: 22 Goals, 24 Assists, 46 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 26 Goals, 30 Assists, 56 Points
  • Demetrios Koumontzis, Forward, Arizona State commit
    2016-17 Stats: No Minnesota State High School League stats
  • Lewis Crosby, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 16 Goals, 23 Assists, 39 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 21 Goals, 30 Assists, 51 Points


Duluth East
Section 7

2016-17 Regular Season Record: 16-8-1

After a heartbreaking double overtime loss to eventual state champion Grand Rapids in the section 7AA final, Duluth East returns several key scorers from last season in seniors Ian Mageau and Garrett Worth, and junior Ryder Donovan, with support from Hunter Paine and Austin Jouppi.  The team isn't going to score a lot with no individual player over 40 points, but they well in the defensive zone, lead by Luke LaMaster and Reid Hill.  The team has received a solid goaltending performance out of Lukan Hanson with a save percentage of .913%, and expect a similar result this year. Duluth East should have no issues getting out of section 7 come playoff time. It's biggest competition in the section will be Elk River and Cloquet. Grand Rapids got completely dismantled in the offseason and will likely be a non-factor with the early departures of Gavin Hain, Blake McLaughlin, and Zack Stejskal, and the graduation of Micah Miller, along with coach Trent Klatt leaving the program to pursue other interests.

Key Players to Watch:
  • Ian Mageau, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 9 Goals, 26 Assists, 35 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 7 Goals, 31 Assists, 38 Points
  • Garrett Worth, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 18 Goals, 13 Assists, 31 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 19 Goals, 14 Assists, 33 Points
  • Ryder Donovan, Forward, North Dakota commit
    2016-17 Stats: 10 Goals, 20 Assists, 30 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 11 Goals, 18 Assists, 29 Points


Moorhead
Section 8

2016-17 Regular Season Record: 19-3-3

Last year's state runner-up in Class AA will be returning a strong team for 2017-18 with it's top line of Carter Randklev, Cole O'Connell, and Jack Stetz back in place to content for another state title. Randklev will probably make the Mr. Hockey finalist list. Linemate Cole O'Connell does not get quite as much attention as Randklev, but would not be surprised if O'Connell's numbers are comparable to his teammate and is in the Mr. Hockey conversation as Minn Puck season scoring projections are similar. Goaltending has also been a strength with this team with save percentages around .920% from the netminders. Moorhead should not have too much trouble getting out of section 8. We are not projecting any other team in the section to finish in the top 10 this season.

Key Players to Watch:
  • Carter Randklev, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 26 Goals, 20 Assists, 46 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 35 Goals, 23 Assists, 58 Points
  • Cole O'Connell, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 20 Goals, 21 Assists, 41 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 28 Goals, 29 Assists, 57 Points
  • Jack Stetz, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 10 Goals, 27 Assists, 37 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 12 Goals, 30 Assists, 42 Points


St. Thomas Academy
Section 3

2016-17 Regular Season Record: 20-4-1

As is the theme with the teams listed above, St. Thomas Academy returns many of it's key scorers from 2016-17, including the Christy brothers, Ray and Rob, along with Payton Matsui, and Brendan McFadden. What St. Thomas hopes to change is disappointing finishes since arriving in Class AA. After blowing out Wayzata in the state consolation championship last season, St. Thomas looks to be in the winner's bracket come March. They do not have much competition in section 3AA, and we expect their luck to change this season and be part of the tournament field at Xcel Energy Center.

Key Players to Watch:
  • Ray Christy, Forward, Colorado College commit
    2016-17 Stats: 14 Goals, 23 Assists, 37 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 17 Goals, 26 Assists, 43 Points
  • Rob Christy, Forward, Colorado College commit
    2016-17 Stats: 14 Goals, 19 Assists, 33 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 21 Goals, 19 Assists, 40 Points
  • Payton Matsui, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 21 Goals, 12 Assists, 33 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 25 Goals, 12 Assists, 37 Points


Hill-Murray
Section 4


2016-17 Regular Season Record: 16-5-4

Hill-Murray could be one of the sneaky teams this year that makes a deep run with the return of top five scorers from last season in Ben Helgeson and Mike Fleischhacker. They are joined by Ben Bonin (son of Hobey Baker Award Winner, Brian Bonin) and Charlie Strobel (son of University of Wisconsin standout, Mike Strobel). Defensively, the team is led by Joey Petronack and Brett Oberle. The team lost Jake Begley to graduation, one of the top goaltenders in the state, so the biggest question mark with this team will be the play in-between the pipes.

Key Players to Watch:
  • Ben Helgeson, Forward, Wisconsin commit
    2016-17 Stats: 26 Goals, 20 Assists, 46 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 35 Goals, 23 Assists, 58 Points
  • Mike Fleischhacker, Forward
    2016-17 Stats: 20 Goals, 21 Assists, 41 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 28 Goals, 29 Assists, 57 Points
  • Joey Petronack, Defense
    2016-17 Stats: 5 Goals, 12 Assists, 17 Points
    2017-18 Minn Puck Projection: 7 Goals, 14 Assists, 21 Points

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