How do you evaluate kids as being the best or top of their group? Simple, you watch them play, record their number if they do well and don’t record their number if they don’t do well. You try to watch them in the fall, in the mid-winter and in the February playoffs. That is tough to do when over 100 teams are playing as far apart as 300 miles.
What follows is my list PeeWee A players in the state to watch (with apologies to some teams in D16, D12 and D15 that were not seen). The list is divided into a first team, a second team, best of the rest, returning players to watch and best of the rest goalies. All these players have two common attributes - their play on ice stood out from the rest and if you take their jersey off, I wouldn’t know them from the next kid.
But a cautious note to kids (and parents) who find themselves on this list, relax and enjoy the sport. When my son played hockey (he is now a father of three), the two best PeeWee A players on his teams did not play high school hockey. PeeWee B players made Bantam A next year and PeeWee A players made bantam B. High school coaches hear the chatter that goes on and will favor a kid with a good attitude over a player that has greater skill and a poor attitude. One kid in my son’s era was not the best player (A/B player), but had the best personal values; played high school, Division I for one year, and jumped to a successful career in the NHL.
He just grew right. And my grandchildren are great kids.
Orono #22 is one of the best all-around players. He consistently plays every game with poise and game awareness. Great skating, hard-working two-way player, tremendous shot at odd angles and great passing skills; he will fight for every puck.
Edina #7 is a second-year PeeWee A for the Hornets that grew over last summer to a good size. He has great speed and outstanding stick handling.
Rosemount #2 is a strong skating smart center for the Irish that was the heart of their team this year. He is not a kid that tries to score goals all the time; he simply is a goal scorer.
Farmington #13 is one of the top players in the state and will be returning next year. A big defenseman that plays with patiently controlled aggressiveness that carried the Tigers at critical times in the season. His single third period late stint on the ice almost knotted the game with Eden Prairie that would have carried the Tigers to the state.
Woodbury #15 plays defense in the same manner that the TV broadcasters used to describe Apple Valley defenseman Anthony Leong. He makes the right plays and improved tremendously over the year.
Hopkins #30 is a medium sized kid that is very agile and has a quick glove. Scrambles well and covers well. The only goalie on the team, led his team to a 35-13 record holding their 48 opponents to an average of two goals per game. More then half of those 48 games, the Royals played with a short bench (as little as nine players for some games).
Edina #9 lives in the shadow of #7 and matches him with speed and skill that tears up the opposition’s defense. Shows better all-around capabilities and will be something to watch as he matures.
St. Paul Highland Central #13 is a big, very competitive defenseman who can skate and handle the puck. He plays a physical game and is a joy to watch.
Wayzata #16 is a player the opposition never wants to let loose in front of their net. He is the best goal scorer and passer in the state and you can’t leave him alone on the goalie.
St. Michael-Albertville #50 is a center that has size and a strong heavy shot. Constant skater when on the ice usually finds the right play. Looks tired when skating, but skates from game start to game end. He needs to play his game and ignore some of the nuisance play.
Luverne #22 is a solid defenseman. Best asset is game awareness and plays the game within the context of the game’s flow. Has the ability to rush the puck. He is a great kid to watch in the future.
Eastview #30 is a bigger sized kid that is also very agile and also the only goalie on his team. He has sound mechanics and great ability to control the rebound. His team finished with a 27-17-2 record and he gave up three or less goals in 37 of those 46 games. Eighteen of those games were played against D6 teams.
Best of the Rest
Minneapolis Park #18 looks cool out on the ice at defense. Nice size, good skating and has an ability to never look rattled.
Forest Lake #8 is a smart center, offensively oriented, reasonable size. He skates and plays position well.
Orono #16 is the best offensive defenseman at the PeeWee A level, but against better teams has to learn how to adjust between offense and defense game situations. He has a great, deceiving shot.
Wayzata #15 has a blazing shot on wing and will snipe goals at odd angles to the crease.
Osseo/Maple Grove #16 is a big center with great hands and a knack to find the net with the puck (usually because he is standing in front of it, fending off the defense).
Faribault #5 is good and going to get better. Plays center well, good game knowledge, great shot and skater, nice size.
St. Michael-Albertville #58 is a wing and has developed a strong aggressive hard-nosed style of play. He is one of the most improved players over the season.
Crow River #7 is a center for the Tigers that puts constant pressure on the defense. She never stops carrying out the attack.
Buffalo #4 is an all-around player that is fun to watch. He is bound to improve.
Prior Lake/Savage #2 was injured in early December and came back to lead his team to the Bloomington Tourney title. Good all-around center.
Edina #6 is a returning defenseman that has struggled at times. He has improved his offensive skills.
Burnsville #16 is a workhorse at the wing for the Blaze. He is a player with a great shot and game skill. He will be fun to watch in the future.
Eastview #8 is a wing that tends to go unnoticed at first sight because his real skill is his play in game conditions. He can shot and pass with great game awareness.
Apple Valley #8 is a rushing defenseman that has a great shot and outside speed and skill and could develop into a top wing.
Minnetonka #8 is a big center that struggled at first but came on strong for the Skippers as the season wore on. Good skill set to go with his size.
Rochester #18 is a second-year PeeWee that grew over the summer. He was the strength of the Rochester team last year, but struggled at the start to re-gain his hockey skills. When he did, the Rochester team came within one game of the state.
South St. Paul #11 is a second-year PeeWee that really improved over the year. A tough dedicated player that reminds one of the more successful players, quiet nice kid who likes to play the game.
Dodge County #79 is a tough defenseman with skill on the rush; but he always focused on defense first.
Lakeville South #11 is a good working center that was always on the ice when the Cougars needed a goal.
Elk River #16 is their big center. On a team of good players, it is difficult to pick one outstanding, but #16 is that one. He skates hard.
Andover #12 is one player that could have ended in the top list and after watching his play in the upcoming state tourney. A great center with great size.
Andover #11 is the other center on the Huskies team. He is more of a finesse player that gets better as the game gets longer. Good game skills and a goal scorer.
Returning Players to watch
Minneapolis Park #11 small and plays wing like a mouse among the elephants. Knows the game extremely well and when on the ice, usually gets the puck into the offensive zone. Because of size, skates to avoid the cheap hits (and there are many attempts), but is not afraid to physically check and separate the puck from a foot-plus taller player. When he does it, like everything else, he does it correctly.
Farmington #17 will return next year and with #13 will drive their D8 opponents wild. He is a great kid with large size, tough defensive skills, good skating and stickhandling skills and will only get better.
Woodbury #4 is a first-year move-in from out of state. He plays smart hockey at center and will improve next year.
Woodbury #11 is a large smooth skating kid that played defense and wing for the Royals. He will be a tough goal scorer next year regardless of position.
Andover #39 played technically very well in the Burnsville tourney at Thanksgiving, but had her moments. In the D10 playoffs, she was one of the big reasons the Huskies won as she thwarted Elk River forwards time and again by playing and holding position.
Best of the Rest Goalies
White Bear Lake #30 shared the Bear net with another goalie, but has extremely good quickness and technical skill to go along with good size.
Woodbury #1 is a “game” goalie. If the big game is on the line, he comes to play. Smallest goalie on the list, but could be the best as he matures.
Luverne #30 at goal has great natural ability, but he needs to learn the position. He has great competitive desire playing on a short bench team (9 forwards). In the Rochester tourney playing against the host (and eventual D8 playoff champion), he still was battling blocking close-in shots and covering up with his team down by seven goals in the third period. He made Rochester earn their goals by not giving up.
Wayzata #30 is the biggest PeeWee A goalie around. He combines his size with skill and patience around the net. Hard goalie to beat.