2018-19 Minnesota High School Hockey Season Preview and Top 10 Class AA State Rankings

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2018-19 Minnesota High School Hockey Season Preview

Another high school hockey is back, and it feels good to write about it again after the offseason hiatus. Class AA is wider open this season as early indicators point towards more parity at the top of the rankings. Teams that were at the top last year return to prominence. A few young teams trying to prove themselves take a stake in the top ten. Here are the preseason rankings:

Player stats are from the 2017-18 regular season.

  1. Edina

After finishing third at state last year following a regular season with high expectations, the Hornets look to have another strong season and start this year atop the Minn Puck rankings. They lose Mr. Hockey winner Sammy Walker, Ben Brinkman, and Demetrios Koumontzis, and will look to Mason Nevers, Jett Jungels, and Liam Malmquist to replenish the scoring. Jackson Borst and Brett Chorske will provide additional offense. Defensive depth is a strong suit for Edina with Jake Boltmann, Mike Vorlicky, and Mason Reiners. Edina should have the depth to be contending for a state title. Goaltending is a question mark, but then again, it was not a strong suit last year in Edina’s run to state.

Key players:

Forwards – Mason Nevers (21 goals, 34 assists, 55 points), Jett Jungels (23 goals, 25 assists, 48 points), Liam Malmquist (13 goals, 12 assists, 25 points)

Defense – Jake Boltmann (2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points), Mike Vorlicky (1 goal, 12 assists, 13 points), and Mason Reiners (1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points)

(Photo courtesy of Bob Peck)
  1. Minnetonka

The defending state champions lose forward Bobby Brink to juniors and Luke Loheit to graduation, but retain top talent, primarily defensively, to make another run as one of the top teams in the state. Grant Docter and Josh Luedtke anchor the blue line, perhaps the top tandem in the state, and Charlie Glockner is a pre-season favorite for the Frank Brimsek Award, given to the top senior goaltender. The Skippers will rely mainly on Jack Bayless and Teddy Lagerback to contribute offensively. Mack Motzko, son of Gophers coach Bob Motzko, transfers in from St. Cloud Cathedral, and is expected to be a contributor offensively. The knock on this team is that they are not particularly deep but can shut down opponent scoring.

Key players:

Forwards – Jack Bayless (19 goals, 25 assists, 44 points) and Teddy Lagerback (17 goals, 14 assists, 31 points)

Defense – Josh Luedtke (6 goals, 21 assists, 27 points) and Grant Docter (7 goals, 19 assists, 26 points)

Related: Mighty Minnetonka! Skippers Defeat Duluth East for First State Title

  1. Andover

Andover came a couple minutes away from upsetting Duluth East and making it to the state tournament last season. This is a team on-the-rise and expected to make some noise in Section 7AA. They return two of their three 50+ point scorers with Charlie Schoen and Nick Dainty. Luke Kron should play a big role offensively. Defensively, they are junior heavy with prospect Wyatt Kaiser leading the way. Ben Fritsinger is one of the top goalies in the state with a 1.77 GAA and .929 SV% last season.

Key players:

Forwards – Charlie Schoen (26 goals, 28 assists, 54 points) and Nick Dainty (19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points)

Defense – Wyatt Kaiser (3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points) and Mitchell Wolfe (2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points)

  1. Duluth East

The runners-up from last year’s state tournament are looking for another shot at winning the Class AA title. They come into this season losing two-thirds of the WMD line and Luke LaMaster. Returning is one of the top forwards in the state in Ryder Donovan. Fredrick Paine anchors the defense. The Hounds will need to rely on their young core of players to support Donovan in order to have a successful season. There is just too much uncertainty with the younger players on Duluth East to give them one of the top three spots to start the season.

Key players:

Forwards – Ryder Donovan (11 goals, 42 assists, 53 points)

Defense – Frederick Paine (4 goals, 20 assists, 24 points)

(Jack Kewitsch/HockeyClan)
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall

The Raiders return prolific forward Matt Gleason.  Cretin has a lot of depth at forward with four players with 20+ points last season: Matthew Gleason, Nick Davison, Grayson Milosch, and Zach Bridges. Depth drops off quickly on the defensive side and could be cause for concern. Outside of Danny Magnuson, the cupboards are bare.

Key players:

Forwards – Matthew Gleason (28 goals, 22 assists, 50 points)

Defense – Danny Magnuson (9 goals, 24 assists, 33 points)

  1. St. Thomas Academy

The Cadets lose a lot of its roster from last year to graduation, but retain Rob Christy, Brendan McFadden, Ryan O’Neill, and Luke Herzog among the 20+ point scorers from last year. There is not much depth defensively, which like Cretin-Derham Hall, could be an issue this year. Tom Winges returns on defense. St. Thomas loses Atticus Kelly between the pipes, who was a major contributor to the Cadets’ success last season. If they can get solid goaltending this year, St. Thomas will be a contender. With the questions on defense and in net, St. Thomas starts outside the top five.

Key players:

Forwards – Rob Christy (14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points) and Brendan McFadden (9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points)

Defense – Tom Winges (2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points)

  1. Chaska

This Chaska team has been on the rise for the last few years that could culminate into a state birth bid. Minn Puck had their eye on this team last year as a top team coming into this season. The Hawks may be the most exciting team to watch among the top ten with four Division I commits in Michael Koster (Mr. Hockey candidate), Rhett Pitlick, Shane LaVelle, and Blaine Warnert. The questions facing Chaska are their conference schedule and lack of reputable opponents. They will need quality wins in their non-conference schedule to stay among the state’s elite teams. In addition, outside of Michael Koster, there isn’t much depth defensively. Of the teams listed in the top ten rankings, they may the most volatile to movement within the rankings.

Key players:

Forwards – Rhett Pitlick (20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points), Shane LaVelle (18 goals, 13 assists, 31 points), and Blaine Warnert (10 goals, 6 assists, 16 points)

Defense – Michael Koster (14 goals, 41 assists, 55 points)

  1. Holy Family

Holy Family lost a lot of their offense from last season to graduation but return Garrett Pinoniemi. Pinoniemi will need support from the likes of Trey Fechko and Lucas Jorgenson, who transfers in from Class A champion Orono. Defensively, Holy Family is led by Nikolai Charchenko, Dan Reddan, and Michael Spinner. Bailey Huber transfers in from Mahtomedi to play in goal. Even with transfer roulette, Holy Family still finds itself a top contender.

Key players:

Forwards – Garrett Pinoniemi (12 goals, 32 assists, 44 points)

Defense – Nikolai Charchenko (4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points)

  1. Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie looks to rebound from their upset loss to Chaska in the section quarterfinals last year. Jack Jensen returns and will be up for the Mr. Hockey award, and the Eagles will need to find ways to replace scoring lost to graduation. Expecting John Mittelstadt, Sam Wilhite, Spencer Rudrud, Keegan Langefels, and Garrett Smith to step up to fill that void.  Eden Prairie adds another Mittelstadt in Luke, who will play on the blue line. If the underclassmen gel together, this could be a sneaky team playing for a Section 2AA title.

Key players:

Forwards – Jack Jensen (20 goals, 18 assists, 38 points)

Defense – Keegan Langefels (5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points)

Hill-Murray celebrates advancing to state after beating White Bear Lake on March 2, 2018 at Aldrich Arena in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Courtesy of TeMo Photo @T3Morris)
  1. Hill-Murray

Perhaps having the youngest roster among the teams on the top ten list, Hill-Murray looks to make a return trip to state despite a sub .500 record. Head coach Bill Lechner is one of the best in the state, which makes the Pioneers a threat most years. Nick Pierre was an eighth grade call-up last year that boasted 11 points in eight regular season games. He is one of the top young players in the state and could certainly have a breakout year. Michael Fleischhacker and Brent Oberle return as the top scorers from last year. Like Eden Prairie, the ceiling is high if everything comes together.

Key players:

Forwards – Michael Fleischhacker (16 goals, 11 assists, 27 points) and Nick Pierre (8 goals, 3 assists, 11 points in 8 games played)

Defense – Brent Oberle (5 goals, 17 assists, 22 points)

Related: 2018 Minnesota High School Hockey State Tournament Preview

Class AA Rankings – Week of 11-25-18

Some teams started play over the Thanksgiving weekend and the results made for some movement within the rankings for this week.  Here is this week’s top ten with a new team on top:

  1. Minnetonka (2-0)

The Skippers pulled off a pair of convincing wins last week in The Opener showcase to claim the top spot from Edina in this week’s rankings. Minnetonka is coming out of the gate clicking on all cylinders and showing no signs of a state tournament hangover. Charlie Glockner has only allowed one goal in the two games played.

  1. Duluth East (0-0)

The Greyhounds sat idle last week but move up due to Edina and Andover dropping in the rankings among the top four teams. Duluth East opens against White Bear Lake on Friday.

  1. Edina (1-0-1)

The Hornets started the season with a nice win over Holy Family, but then could not find a way to put away Maple Grove the next night despite a 40-19 shot advantage as the game ended in a tie officially, 3-3 (Maple Grove won the Turkey Trot championship in a shootout). Edina started the year with players on the suspension list, so there are some internal happenings right now. On the bright side, Kevin Delaney has been a scoring machine with four goals in the two games.

  1. Andover (1-0)

Andover needed overtime to take care of a Moorhead team depleted of talent, so that does raise some questions. Perhaps it was first game jitters for the Huskies as this team is capable of more on paper.

  1. Cretin-Derham Hall (0-0)

Cretin-Derham Hall was idle this past week and begin season play on Saturday against Eden Prairie.

  1. St. Thomas Academy (1-1)

The Cadets split their two games at The Opener, despite having a couple key players, such as Brendan McFadden and Luke Herzog, absent from the team as they were participating in the Prep Bowl. St. Thomas looked overmatched against Minnetonka in the first game but held off a late surge from Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in game two to earn their first win. Not having their full roster available, St. Thomas was given the benefit of the doubt and did not move in the rankings.

  1. Chaska (1-0)

Eastview scored nearly thirty seconds into the game with Chaska, but the Hawks found their groove and shutdown the Lightning the last two periods for a 5-2 victory.

  1. Eden Prairie (0-0)

Eden Prairie was idle this past week and open play on Saturday against Cretin-Derham Hall.

  1. Hill-Murray (0-0)

Hill-Murray was idle this past week and open their season Thursday against Burnsville.

  1. Maple Grove (1-0-1)

The early season surprise as Maple Grove held their own against Edina at the Turkey Trot with an outstanding performance by goaltender Jack Wieneke, stopping 37 of 40 shots, for a 3-3 tie (the Crimson were the shootout winner). With a roster made of primarily underclassmen, this was a positive step in the right direction for this young team to build on.


Written and republished with permission from Minn Puck / @MinnPuck

View the Original Article


Main Image: Minnetonka and Duluth East stand for The National Anthem at Xcel Energy Arena on March 10, 2018. (Jack Kewitsch/HockeyClan)


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