skip navigation

State of the State

08/19/2011, 3:42pm CDT
By Aaron Paitich

After leading the Eden Prairie Eagles to a Class 2A state championship in 2009, Nick Leddy is now steadying the blue line for the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Leddy, 19, was put on the fast track. The silky smooth puck-moving defenseman attended the University of Minnesota right out of high school, and after one season with the Gophers, signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Blackhawks.
 
The former Mr. Hockey award winner’s accomplishments highlight the most recent batch of high school talent making waves at the next level.
 
So what else is going right in Minnesota’s prodigious world of high school hockey? And what areas need improvement?
 
Minnesota Hockey Journal got out its report card and assessed subjects such as player development, officiating, section alignment and more.
 
Feeling a Draft
In the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, two Minnesota high school players were chosen in the first round: Blaine’s Nick Bjugstad (19th) and Warroad’s Brock Nelson (30th). Rounds two through seven saw 12 high school players go, totaling 14 Minnesota high school selections.
 
Over the past six years, 11 high school players have been drafted in the first round, including: Leddy (2009), Jordan Schroeder (2009, St. Thomas Academy), Jake Gardiner (2008, Minnetonka), Ryan McDonagh (2007, Cretin-Derham Hall), Patrick White (2007, Grand Rapids), David Fischer (2006, Apple Valley), Brian Lee (2005, Moorhead), Matt Niskanen (2005, Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl), TJ Oshie (2005, Warroad).
 
GRADE: A+
 
This year’s crop
NHL Central Scouting predicts no Minnesota high school players will be selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
 
The only player registering high on the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings released in January is Wayzata’s Mario Lucia at No. 30 for North American skaters. 
 
Holy Angels center Joseph LaBate, Edina standouts Max Everson and Steven Fogarty are also expected to go in the middle rounds. Wayzata forward Tony Cameranesi, Eden Prairie’s Kyle Rau and Stillwater junior defenseman Neal Goff round out the list. Lake of the Woods goaltender Alex Lyon is No. 20 for North 
American goaltenders. 
 
Some late bloomers are garnering attention. Overall, not bad. Not great.
 
GRADE: C
 
Head Shots
With increased concussion awareness, most leagues have done an excellent job of eliminating hits to the head, but high hits are creeping their way back into high school hockey.
 
It’s a three-way street and everyone needs to buy in. Coaches need to teach the purpose of hitting; officials need to make the calls; players need to respond and adapt.
If any party fails to communicate or react, the hits will continue.
 
Division I
According to Stops & Starts, the official publication of the American Hockey Coaches Association, Minnesota still leads all states and Canada for developing and sending players to Division I schools in both men’s and women’s hockey.
 
For the 2010-2011 season, Minnesota produced 182 NCAA Division I men’s college hockey players — by far the most in the United States. Michigan sits in second place with 131. The leading Canadian province, Ontario, produced 173 college hockey players.
 
It’s no surprise Minnesota leads the United States with 131 women’s hockey players in NCAA Division I competition. Michigan is second with 71 and Illinois begins a large drop-off at 34 in third. 
 
Ontario produced 166 women Division I players this season, a benchmark for Minnesota to strive toward.
 
GRADE: B
 
High school hockey programs
Suburban and private-school hockey has thrived. Inner-city numbers are desolate. This season, Minnesota’s largest school district, Minneapolis, dwindled down to one team. 
 
The Minneapolis Novas eight-school cooperative, which carries a combined enrollment of 6,846 students, could only form one boys’ varsity and JV hockey team this season. Changing demographics gradually led to the dismantlement of the city’s once-rich hockey tradition. 
 
Saint Paul programs are experiencing similar pains, including the likelihood of the Saint Paul Saints co-op shutting down at the end of this season. On the other hand, St. Paul Highland Park’s varsity resurgence and other grassroots youth hockey campaigns have sparked hope that inner-city hockey will fight on.
 
On the girls’ side of things, the sport has experienced incredible growth and an increase in participation from 24 programs in its first Minnesota State High School League season (1994) to 125 teams in its current 17th year of existence. 
 
Growth seems to be leveling off, but Minnesota remains far and away as the nation’s leader in girls’ high school hockey.
 
Sections
One look at Class 2A Section 6 will tell you all you need to know. 
Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret’s — all consistently ranked among the top five teams in the state this season — reside in Section 6. It’s what many folks call the mini-state tournament. On the flip side, if one section isn’t represented in the top 20, there has to be a better way. 
 
If the goal is to provide the state tournament with the state’s best, current section pairings have failed. Thursday afternoons and evenings (Class 2A quarterfinals) at the state tournament lack the bite and drama of years past.
 
Everyone loves an upset, but when two sub-.500 teams are playing for a state tournament birth, something needs to be done.
 
GRADE: F
 
State Tournament Revenue
In 2010, the boys’ hockey state tournament collected a $1.02 million profit — by far the most among all Minnesota State High School League tournaments. Boys’ hockey almost doubled the amount of profits football generated, which is the second-most among all tournaments.
 
The MSHSL is able to support non-revenue sports/activities through money-making sports like hockey. Here are Minnesota’s top-five revenue sports of 2010 after direct expenses:
 
Boys’ hockey: $1,017,783
Football: $509,924
Boys’ basketball: $208,156
Wrestling: $159,439
Girls’ basketball: $97,584
 
Would section realignment inject more life, better competition and ultimately increase revenue for the boys’ tournament? Ticket sales and concession stands could be missing out on a tasty appetizer with the likes of a Minnetonka-Eden Prairie quarterfinal.
 
Girls’ hockey stood at No. 8 on the list with $50,832. Will growth in numbers, talent and interest be enough to crack the top five?
 
GRADE: A+
 
American Pipeline
You don’t need to watch “Miracle” to know Minnesota has always healthfully represented USA Hockey. It’s not just a bunch of guys from Boston and Minnesota anymore, but the State of Hockey’s high schoolers continue to make their presence felt on the international stage. 
 
Leddy, Bjugstad and Nelson played for Team USA in the World Juniors this January. David Backes (Spring Lake Park) helped drive Team USA to a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
 
Paul Martin (Elk River) was selected, but did not play due to injury. Oshie, Niskanen and Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids) were named alternates to the Olympic squad. MHJ
 
GRADE: B

Tag(s): Home