Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Kozak-Miller: Tourney Top Prospects

Blaine junior Riley Tufte’s game took another big leap this season for the Bengals. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

Jasper Kozak-Miller looks at top college prospects on display this week at the X

With the State Tournament looming, I took some time to highlight the committed prospects and potential recruits to watch for college hockey fans.

Lakeville North

Lakeville North’s Max Johnson. (Photo by Jim Lindquist/sidekick.smugmug.com)

Lakeville North’s Max Johnson. (Photo by Jim Lindquist / sidekick.smugmug.com)

The team with the most Division 1-bound recruits in the tournament is likely to add a couple more when all is said and done. Led up front by the three Poehlings; Jack, Nick and Ryan, all committed to St. Cloud, uncommitted depth forwards Max Johnson, Taylor Schneider and Henry Enebak all have scored plenty on their own. Johnson seems to be the most likely Division 1 target of the three, a tenacious scorer who stepped up his game this season after a strong sophomore outing. There’s a few other depth forwards in Chaz Dufon, Tommy Klans and Max McGlade who may not play huge roles in this trip to the X but could be a big part of the team in the future. Klans is small but very skilled, while Dufon and McGlade have the potential to be scorers at this level. In net, Ryan Edquist is a Minnesota recruit who has been lights-out this year and senior defenseman Jack Sadek (also a Gopher recruit) makes his life easier with power, size and smart, measured defensive play. Senior co-captain Jack McNeely (Nebraska-Omaha) is a 6’3 defenseman who is up for the draft along with Sadek. McNeely sees the ice pretty well and can be a very challenging assignment at this level.

 

Edina

Edina's Clayton Phillips

Edina’s Clayton Phillips (MHM Photo / Carson Mark)

Last season, puck-moving sophomore defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf stepped right into the line-up out of bantam hockey, won a state championship and committed to the Gophers before jumping to the USHL this year. That was all behind the depth chart to New York Rangers draft pick Tyler Nanne. This year, sophomore Clayton Phillips is similarly coming into his own, but with a much more defensively-inclined senior group of Paul Meyer, Sam Fuss and Ben Foley, Phillips seems to be the go-to puck-mover on defense. An athletic forward-turned-defenseman with good vision, and strong skating, Phillips is coming into his own just in time and picked up five points through two sectional games.

Up front, stand-out scorers Garrett Wait (Minnesota) and Dylan Malmquist (Notre Dame) give the Hornets two top-tier threats and the depth is strong. Senior Henry Bowlby (St. Lawrence) broke out this season, plus Casey Dornbach, Matt Masterman and Parker Mismash are upperclassmen that can all provide secondary scoring. Sophomores Ben Copeland and Bram Scheerer are in line to be big players for the Hornets over the coming years, as is freshman Sam Walker, who is heating up on the scoring front. All were stand-outs, with Clayton Phillips, on Edina’s Bantam AA team last season and will be taking their talents to the Xcel in their first year of Varsity hockey.

 

St. Thomas Academy

St. Thomas Academy's Christiano Versich

St. Thomas Academy’s Christiano Versich (MHM Photo / Jonathan Watkins)

The Cadets have a lot to be scared of up front, led by three uncommitted talents at forward and Colorado College recruit Christiano Versich. Peter Tufto, Alec Broetzman and Billy Jerry have more than compensated for last year’s loss of Tommy Novak (Minnesota) to the USHL and give a reason for opposing defensemen to be on their toes at all times. Tufto and Versich are the smaller of the two, Mr. Hockey finalists and tenacious forwards with a lot of experience and a knack for finding the twine. Broetzman is a big offensive threat with good finishing ability, Jerry is also very good offensively and does a good job linking plays together. Defensively, Brian Hurley is a big sophomore headed to Ohio State who can move the puck and play strong defense. Senior Seamus Donohue, committed to Air Force, is an offensive threat to wire a puck into the net or thread it to a wide-open teammate at any time. Sophomore Jason Smallidge does a little bit of everything at 6’1 on the blue line and could definitely be a target for college recruiters over the tournament.

 

Blaine

Blaine's Luke Notermann

Blaine’s Luke Notermann (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

The Bengals are led up front by 6’4 Minnesota-Duluth recruit Riley Tufte, who exploded from 3 points as a freshman to 51 as a junior, 13 of which came on the man advantage. One of Minnesota’s top NHL draft prospects for next season, Tufte is very effective at using his size in possession as well as identifying and making the right play quickly. He’s a threat to make a glowing pass or snipe it home and when put together with talent he is very dangerous. In this case, pure goalscorer Easton Brodzinski (St. Cloud) provides the deadly touch that makes Blaine a threat, while uncommitted junior Luke Notermann is a shifty, quick forward who can really produce at this level and tied with Tufte for the team lead in scoring.

 

Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie's Casey Mittelstadt

Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt (MHM Photo / Mackenzi Marinovich)

The Eagles graduated two NHL draft picks in UNO recruit Steven Spinner and current UNO defenseman Luc Snuggerud, but the addition of sophomore Minnesota recruit Casey Mittelstadt meant the Eagles didn’t have too many hiccups. Minnesota-Duluth recruit Mike Graham teamed up with Mittelstadt to give the team two absolutely lethal offensive threats, and they finshed with glaringly similar scoring lines, both scoring just under 50 total points and over 20 goals. Uncommitted young stand-outs Nolan Sullivan and Nicky Leivermann came up to the Varsity with Mittelstadt last year. Both are starting to hit their stride. Sullivan is a forward with good size and scoring ability, and Leivermann is a natural quarterback of the play who can make glowing passes or rush it up himself. Senior Riley Argetsinger at forward as well as Marc Sullivan and Brady Schoo on defense are big names to watch over the tournament. Schoo, a strong-skating all-around talent, is one of the better uncommitted seniors in the state and has improved every year, becoming tougher to play against and better in possession.

 

Duluth East

Duluth East's Ash Altmann

Duluth East’s Ash Altmann (Photo / Dave Harwig – Special to MHM)

The Greyhounds have an offensive group with a couple stand-outs but a lot of depth in contributing roles. Brothers Nick and Ash Altmann are both Division 1 prospects with size and scoring ability, but they took a step back production-wise this year and opened the door for other names to emerge. Duluth Marshall junior transfer Luke Dow is a smaller, quick scorer and freshman Garrett Worth has started off his high school career the right way, winning the Section final in double-overtime over Elk River to keep the Hounds playing this week. A tenacious, gritty goal-scorer, Worth is one of a couple young guns for East this year. Eighth-grader Ryder Donovan got his first high school goal against Minnetonka in mid-February, freshman Ian Mageau tallied 5 of his own this season while 6’1 freshman Luke LaMaster and 6’2 sophomore Reid Hill are legitimate Division 1 prospects to watch closely on the back-end. LaMaster, like Edina’s Phillips, is a forward converted turned to defense who is showing a lot of potential. Hill is a tough customer and not someone you want to let catch you with your head down. With enough depth at both positions to skate with every team in the tournament, goaltender Gunnar Howg has the potential to have some terrific outings and will probably be a deciding factor for the Hounds.

 

Bemidji

Bemidji's Jake Leitner (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

Bemidji’s Jake Leitner (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

The Lumberjacks have a very intriguing group of players that are saddled with a tough draw against Edina in their first game. Jake Leitner, a senior forward, is a good offensive threat who leads the team in scoring and connected for eight assists on the man advantage this year, but other than big sophomore star forward Brady Tatro, the junior class is where it’s at. Junior forward Josh Lusby is a well-rounded goalscorer with size who thinks quick and makes plays, and classmate Jack Johnson showed some tenacious play alongside Tatro in the Elite League this fall. Junior defenseman Nick Leitner is a good puck-mover who also was in the Elite League, and puck-moving freshman defenseman Chase Hartje is a prospect to keep an eye on for the future.

 

Hill-Murray

Hill-Murray's Zach Mills

Hill-Murray’s Zach Mills (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

The Pioneers moved on a ton of scoring after last season, and offensively they’re a very different team. A familiar face leads the way in uncommitted senior Zach Mills, an elusive scorer at 5’10 who can make a lot happen. An unfamiliar face sits just behind Mills in the scoring charts, though, in sophomore Marko Reifenberger. A 6’0 forward who posted 18 goals and 17 assists, including 12 points on the powerplay, he’s emerged as a serious offensive force and will be one to watch closely this week. Harvard recruit Jacob Olson and fellow senior defenseman Davis Zarembinski each play a big role for Hill defensively, and freshman Mikey Anderson is a UMD recruit who enters state with two full seasons under his belt already. Freshman forward Dylan Mills, a 6’2 skater with D1 potential, picked up four points in his last five games and will have a chance to show what he can do on a huge stage after some time on an important but smaller one in the high school elite league this fall. Sophomore Jake Begley is one of the state’s top goaltenders and uncommitted junior defenseman Casey Staum has the ability to be an impact player at this level.

Class A Tournament, Fifteen Names to Watch:

 

East Grand Forks: Dixon Bowen, Tanner Tweten

Hermantown: Nate Pionk, Jesse Jacques, Ryan Sandelin, Dylan Samberg, Wyatt Aamodt

Spring Lake Park: Jacob Nystrom

Breck: Chase Ellingson, Grant Parrish and Mitch Machlitt

St. Cloud Apollo: Tanner Briedenbach

New Prague: Mitch El-Wailli

Mahtomedi: Jack Becker and Will Swanson