The high school hockey season in Minnesota has passed its mid-point making it the perfect time to reflect on candidates that should be considered for “Mr. Hockey.”
For those outside the State of Hockey, “Mr. Hockey” is the affectionate nomenclature awarded to the most outstanding senior high school hockey player in Minnesota as reviewed and selected by NHL and USHL scouts, Division I and III coaches and honored members of the local media. The award has been received by numerous and memorable student-athletes over the years including Trent Klatt, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Nick Leddy, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau and Casey Mittelstadt, among others.
Mr. Hockey may seem like an award based on statistical dominance at first glance, but looking at the breakdown of players who have won since its inception in 1985, it is clear the wealth has been spread. A total of 14 centers, 11 wingers and eight defensemen, including a five-year run from 2005-’09, have won the award.
Minnesota has two classes for high school hockey in the state: Class A and Class AA, with schools filtered based on enrollment sizes. Class A is comprised of the smaller schools while Class AA consists of the larger and often more competitive programs.
2017-18 “Mr. Hockey” Rankings*
1. Sammy Walker (F) – Edina Hornets – Committed to the University of Minnesota; 16 Goals, 19 Assists, 35 Points (2.50 Points Per Game)
Having seen Edina play the most this year, I can comfortably say that Walker is in great position to go into the state tournament weekend with a grip on the award. His jaw-dropping speed and great puck control is what has allowed him to average the points he has along with ensuring the games Edina plays are not one-man shows. Adding eight points to his total this past week (four goals, four assists) including two decisive goals against a top-ranked White Bear Lake team continue to show his worthiness of being the only player currently drafted by an NHL team, selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 7th round, 200th overall in 2017, and the award. The back half of the season is where he is going to have to continue his dominance, however, as Edina plays a notoriously tough stretch leading up to the section and state tournaments.
2. Ben Almquist (F) – Holy Family Catholic Fire – Committed to the University of Wisconsin; 21 Goals, 15 Assists, 36 Points (2.4 Points Per Game)
Another speed demon alongside Walker, Almquist leads Holy Family in points by eight as Garrett Pinoniemi (So.) is the next closest with 28, with 22 of those being assists on many of his goals. I have seen Almquist play only once this year, a 7-0 loss to Edina to open the season, but with the schedule the Fire plays along with being in the competitive 2AA section he deserves to be this high on the list.
3. George Grannis (F) – Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers – Uncommitted; 24 Goals, 15 Assists, 39 Points (2.60 Points Per Game)
One of the bigger Class AA surprises of the season, Duluth Marshall has Grannis to thank for netting them nice wins and keeping them in contention against tougher opponents along with pushing them into my most recent Top-10. If Grannis is serious about wanting to remain at this spot, or even on this list, late into the season then he is going to have to seriously step his game up against better competition as he has only eight of his points have come from those games (four goals, four assists).
4. Demetrios Komountzis (C) – Edina Hornets – Committed to Arizona State; 11 Goals, 13 Assists, 24 Points (1.71 Points Per Game)
Being the other Edina product on this list, Komountzis comes in at number four as he has shown amazing bursts of technical skill and creativity. He did not play in all 14 games leading to his 1.71 points per game, so that number is actually higher, but when he has played he has made a presence on the ice. His leadership has also been something I have personally noticed as he is not a captain, but he is always stepping up for his teammates both physically and mentally which is something the voters take notice of. I personally do not believe anyone below Komountzis will win this award, but the second half of the season always provides some crazy storylines so who knows.
5. Connor Bizal (F) – Elk River Elks – Committed to Notre Dame; 14 Goals, 19 Assists, 33 Points (2.20 Points Per Game)
Bizal is the reason the Elks have made it back into the Top 10 this week after winning their last five games handily. He’s tallied nine points (three goals, six assists) in that span and leads the team in overall points. The first time I saw him this year he was able to find the back of the net twice in a 10-7 loss at Edina showing me his puck handling and passing skills are what has placed him highly on this list.
6. Lucas McGregor (F) – Centennial Cougars – Uncommitted; 14 Goals, 19 Assists, 33 Points (2.36 Points Per Game)
Centennial may have slipped to the bottom of my Top-10 rankings this week, but McGregor has continued to make a name for himself and a case for Mr. Hockey. His awareness is what the Cougars have benefitted from the most this season as he has seven assists in their last four games and has failed to get a point only once this year in a 5-2 loss to Edina on December 27th in a Schwan’s Cup Gold consolation match-up.
7. Garrett Worth (F) – Duluth East Greyhounds – Uncommitted; 20 Goals, 7 Assists, 27 Points (2.25 Points Per Game)
Being the top scorer and senior for the currently top-ranked team in the state is a hefty weight to have on your shoulders for an offense that is not as explosive as the other top teams in the state. But Worth has been consistent for the Greyhounds scoring two goals or more in seven of team’s games. The back half of Duluth East’s schedule is light in regard to must-see matchups, so it is doubtful that Worth will have the opportunity to make statements against better teams unless he tears it up in sections and during a potential state tournament run.
8. Ray Christy (F) – St. Thomas Academy Cadets – Committed to Colorado College; 5 Goals, 21 Assists, 26 Points (2.03 Points Per Game)
St. Thomas is one of the deeper teams in the state in regard to a line’s ability score at any point in a game. This makes it difficult for Christy to capitalize on points, but this award isn’t solely based on that as I mentioned earlier on this list. He has leadership qualities envied by other teams, but he will not be winning this award unless drastic things take place by the time it is awarded.
9. Chase Hamstad (F) – White Bear Lake Bears – Uncommitted; 10 Goals, 14 Assists, 24 Points (1.71 Points Per Points)
With the little I have seen of Hamstad this season, a 4-3 overtime loss to Edina on January 4th , I have been impressed. He netted an assist in that game and had a goal and assist in each game prior to that. His presence on the ice comes with his physical play style, something the entirety of White Bear Lake plays with as I noted in previous articles, but he will not put the numbers to jump higher on this list.
10. Carter Randklev (F) – Moorhead Spuds – Committed to the University of North Dakota; 15 Goals, 13 Assists, 28 Points (1.87 Points Per Game)
For the most part, when Randklev is on the Spuds win their games. It has been a rare occasion that he has not generated more than a point a game showing his versatility and dynamic relationship with his teammates. He will be a player to keep an eye on as the Spuds look to return to St. Paul for the state tournament, but he will have to assist them on the way there.
Ian Mageau (F) – Duluth East Greyhounds – Uncommitted; 8 Goals, 16 Assists, 24 Points (2.00 Points Per Game)
Mageau was very close to making the Top-10 of this list, but I felt that with the lack of production against the Minnetonka’s and White Bear Lake’s of Duluth East’s schedule made it hard to justify. Add in the fact that Mageau added five assists in a 13-0 blowout of Duluth Denfeld and it makes sense that he has yet to earn a place among the Top-10. His passing is excellent and lesser teams would salivate if he transferred, but he fits East’s style of play giving him the benefit of an honorable mention.
* statistics through 1/11/18
Main Image: Edina senior forward Sammy Walker splits the defense. (Photo courtesy of Bob Peck)
Written by Jack Kewitsch / @JackKewitsch
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