Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Minnesota's Best PeeWee A Players

By frederick61 The 2010-11 season is over and this is the final post. It recognizes kids for their play this past year and that is important to understand. A single good year does not make a future “NHLer” or a D1 college player. Time does. Still when a kid does well, they should be recognized. I want to start out with an apology. There are teams that I did not see at all this year. My apologies go out to the kids on these teams. The majority of the teams that I did not see were teams in the northern part of the state. For example, the only D16 teams that I saw were Roseau and Bemidji. The other five teams I didn’t see. In D12, I saw Grand Rapids and Hibbing play, but not the others. In D15, I saw Moorhead and Alexandria. Still, I saw all the D2, D3, D4, D6, D8, D9, and D10 teams more than once with the exception of Redwood Falls (D4) and St. Francis (D10). Finally, I saw the majority of the D5 teams play, but some only once. If a kid is on this list, he has to have outstanding hockey skills. That is my first criteria. I have seen hundreds of kids this year. The kids on this list caught my attention because of their play. The list is divided into three groups. The first group is limited to 10 players or less. This year, eight players made the first group. The second group is not limited by numbers. The first two groups are second-year PeeWees (to the best of my understanding), the third group consists of first-year PeeWees that will return next year. All kids listed played PeeWee A level last season. The difference between the first group and the second group is the level of maturity shown by the kid when he plays the game. This is a subjective measure and has evolved over time. The best example of “level of maturity” is Mark Parrish as a PeeWee. He was never that flashy, but goalies I knew that had to play against Jefferson in the late 1980s always rated him as the toughest player because he was “always there making the right play” and he never “blew his cool”. To me, the “level of maturity” is the most important criteria and kids often forget that as they complete a great play that results in an outstanding goal. My belief is that kids with level head thinking and understanding of the game are the most likely become future stars. These kids understand the game and how to apply the skills they have to make themselves successful. Goalies are included in the lists. This year only two made the lists. All the kids listed have superior hockey skills. They all have stood out from hundreds of other players. But to the kids who didn’t make this list, I have a reminder. It is only PeeWee hockey. Next year you will 3 to 4 inches taller and who knows what list you will make as a Bantam. Finally, one important thing to understand, I don’t know these kids personally. If I were to meet them off the ice, I wouldn’t know them or recognize them. Top PeeWee A players in the state (2010-11) Group One: 1. #13 Farmington - He made this list last year and led the Tigers this year. He is an “everything” defenseman in that whatever has to be done on the ice, he does it. Good size and fast and very mature in his play. 2. #14 Farmington - He also made this list last year (different number). When #13 wasn’t on the ice, he was. And together the two were the anchors of a strong defensive wall that led the Tigers to a 50-win season. He was big last year and grew this year. 3. #15 Elk River - If #13 for Farmington is an “everything” defenseman, then #15 for Elk River is an “everything” center and that makes him a great center. He has size and skill that complements a good work ethic on the ice. 4. #2 Grand Rapids - Another tough center/wing with size. He is a smart player along the boards with the ability to keep the puck going forward under pressure. He had a great goal against Elk River in the state tourney where he took a hard shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, followed his shot to the goal and rapped in a rebound after it trickled off the goalie’s right side. 5. #2 Sibley - A hard-skating center that started the season trying to carry the load for his line and ended up being frustrated in his early season games. He matured and developed over the season and ended leading an improved Sibley team in the D8 playoffs. He has great skills and good size to which he has added game situation awareness. 6. #16 Woodbury - A kid that plays a hard-checking wing that constantly tied up the opposition in the corners and came out to set up teammates in front of the net. He is a ferocious backchecker that ran down opposition breakaways and made them pay when he caught up with them. 7. #33 Blaine - Early in the season this Blaine goalie showed that he had the skills, but his play at the state tourney was focused and showed the kind of leadership that a goalie can contribute to the team. 8. #8 Edina - Early in the season, he and #23 carried the Edina offense and scored on some terrific passing. Though smaller, he is a smart heady player who can score. But more importantly, he knows how get his team a score. At the West Regional, in three games, he had four goals and five assists. Those stats show the ability he has to adjust his play to help the team. And he helped them to the state title. That puts him in this group. Group 2 1. #4 Woodbury - A skillful center that plays a hard-nosed game that will serve him well at the next level. A clever shooter and a great puck handler last year, he has added more game awareness to his repertoire. He will be an exciting player to watch as he matures. 2. #3 Farmington - A tough center with an aggressive forecheck that always came off the bench hunting for the puck. He had great range in chasing down the puck, aggressive play in establishing Farmington’s offense low in the opponent’s zone, and could score when needed. 3. #23 Edina - During the championship game, this forward leaped around a good Farmington defenseman lifting the butt end of his stick over the Farmington players head while maintaining control of the puck. The Farmington defenseman was upright at the time. It was a great move and it resulted in a clean break on the Farmington net and a goal. He has one of the hardest, most accurate shots in the state at this level and is a great goal scorer. He really improved his overall play over the year. 4. #12 Farmington - It took an injury to one of the Farmington defensemen to push this kid into the spotlight. He was always a good wing and goal scorer, but he was pressed into playing defense for the Tigers in the Regional and State tourneys. He played a great defense for the Tigers. He has good puckhandling skills, but excels in backchecking and working the puck offensively or defensively out of the corners. 5. #7 Rosemount - A smaller center with great offensive skills and plenty of speed. He was the cornerstone of a very fast set of forwards that drove the Irish to the state semifinals. He has a great shot with a quick release and great awareness in the offensive zone. 6. #6 Wayzata - He is almost identical in skill level and style of play as #7 for Rosemount. He is also a smaller center with great offensive skills and speed. He singlehandedly destroyed Elk River in the state tourney quarterfinals, scoring 3 of the Trojans' 4 goals and assisting on the fourth. 7. #4 Northfield - A steady defenseman for the Raiders whose play kept Northfield in the close games and triggered a number of their attacks. 8. #11 St. Louis Park - He lacks size, but plays a great center for the Orioles. He was on the list last year as a first year. A heady player that works all over the ice and constantly is checking, taking the puck and setting up his teammates. 9. #23 Prior Lake - Another big defenseman in a year where there were a number of big, skilled defensemen. Great passing skills and opportunist when scoring, he can control the game flow when he is “on.” He dominated a mid-season D6 game with Edina that ended in a 1-1 tie by eliminating the breakout on Edina’s trapping style of play. 10. #30 Grand Rapids - This kid looks like the prototype of an old-time goalie, stubby and athletic. Showed great skills at the state tourney in keeping the Rapids in their game with Farmington and made the outstanding save of the tourney in the Rapids win over Elk River. 11. #19 Eden Prairie - A hard-skating, big center for the Eagles that provided a lot of the scoring, usually off a rugged rush. He always attracted the opponent’s attention. He has a great, quick, hard shot that goalies find difficulty in reacting to and stopping. 12. #15 Woodbury - He is a big winger that played defense part of the season. A growing kid who plays the game with dedication and focus, he has great passing skills, a hard shot, and works hard in the corner. 13. #8 Woodbury - A kid who played wing, center, and defense for Woodbury. He has good size, good skating and stickhandling abilities, but his forte is as a playmaker at wing or center, something that is rare. 14. #20 Burnsville - Another big center that provided scoring punch for the Blaze. Very athletic with good puckhandling skills and an aggressive style of play, he was one of the reasons the Blaze won the D6 regular season title and at one point was 24-0 on the season. 15. #10 Roseville - He is one of those players that look good skating and solid in his overall play, but he is one of those kids with an instinct for scoring. He is one reason why Roseville won the D2 regular season title this year. 16. #15 Edina - This kid found his stride as the Hornets season ended. For the first part of the season, he played a good defense for the Hornets. A kid with good size, strong puck control and a good hard shot; he found another gear in January and became the fastest skater on a team of fast skaters. The best compliment on his play came during the State Championship game when a Farmington fan asked if the kid lying on the ice was #15 because “the Tigers really need that.” Group Three 1. Lakeville South #5 - Smart, smaller center with good skating and shooting skills who led a young Lakeville South team to the South Regional #2 seed game to the state tourney, losing to Rosemount. With him returning along with a number of other kids, the Hornets will be challenged. 2. Elk River #4 - A smooth skating center/wing that along with the Elks #6 gave Elk River a potent second line. His stickhandling is great and he has great hockey sense. 3. Forest Lake #6 - He is a young defenseman that plays tough defense first, but has that “scoring ability.” He is a kid to watch next year for the Rangers. 4. Elk River #6 - A smooth skating wing that is identical in size, style and play as the Elks #4. If he and #4 are returning first years (I didn’t get confirmation on that), the Elks will have a good year next year. 5. Eden Prairie #5 - This kid didn’t stand out until January when the Eagles beat Burnsville in a D6 game. He scored two late goals to win the game. He is a smaller kid with great hockey skills. 6. Eden Prairie #31 - It was hard not to miss this goalie. He really stonewalled Farmington early in the season to hand the Tigers one of their few regular season loses. In the West Regional, he gave up 10 goals in the four West Regional games the Eagles played (Wayzata twice, OMG, and Burnsville). A bigger goalie that is well schooled in the position and very athletic. So ends the 2010-11 season. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts and remind you that Let’s Play Hockey has kept all the posts online since the first post in early November. As a result, once you have figured out what region your district (hence team) played in, you have a sort of diary of your kid or your team’s hockey this past season. So it is now time to break out the baseball bats or soccer balls. Those tryouts should be starting. Have a good summer and until the 2011-12 season starts next November, I’ll just whisper it quietly. “Let’s Play Hockey.”

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