While high end talent wasn’t there this season in the NHL Draft from the Minnesota high school ranks, there was certainly a quality of depth to be found. With that in mind, here is a look at the picks coming out of the State of Hockey.
52nd Overall – Pittsburgh Penguins – Theodor Blueger, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s
With the selection of Blueger, the Penguins shored up their organizational depth at center – where they have only Brian Gibbons, Adam Payerl and Keven Veilleux in their system. Blueger came to the State of Hockey from Riga, Latvia to play at Shattuck, and his time there has served him well, racking up an impressive 48 goals and 154 points in 105 career games for the school that has been a home to such players as Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise. Also, playing in the 2012 World Junior Championships, Blueger represented himself and his home country well with three points (1g-2a) in six games. At 6’0”, 170 pounds, Blueger still has to grow into his frame but he has the creativity and hands that could potentially allow him to grow into a deadly offensive weapon in Pittsburgh.
68th Overall – Minnesota Wild – John Draeger, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s
For better or worse, a lot of hoopla is always made when the Wild draft a hometown boy but Draeger could very well be worth the hoopla. The Fairbault, Minnesota native is big, strong and has a tremendous mind for the game, which has served him well at Shattuck, allowing him to add a bit of offense to his already staunch defensive game and increase his point total from 11 points in his first season with Shattuck to 41 last season. The increased point total cranked up the interest in Draeger, who has already proven himself to be a solid, defensively reliable defender. Draeger is committed to Michigan State University in the fall and will hone his craft even further under the tutelage of head coach Tom Anastos and his staff – something that will allow Draeger to round out his game before hitting the pro ranks.
112th Overall – Nashville Predators – Zach Stepan, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s
The Predators have had a bit of a rough go of it this off season, but the addition of Zach Stepan to their organization should definitely be considered a bright spot. Stepan, the cousin of New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan, could just be another center in a Predators’ organization that already has some pretty solid centers to its name, but he could also have the potential to be more than just another face in the crowd. At 5’11”, 165 pounds, Stepan is slight in frame but he’s got a unique combination of speed and strength that allows him to play larger than he is. He can create his own space and his hockey sense is very well developed. He’s tallied 47 goals and 129 points in 104 games for Shattuck and is slated to play with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks next season before attending Ohio State University in 2013.
126th Overall – Toronto Maple Leafs – Dominic Toninato, C, Duluth East
With three of their top center prospects headed to the pros, the Maple Leafs had a need up the middle in their organization and Toninato was one of the players that the Leafs drafted to address that need. On the surface, he looks to be a prototypical Brian Burke-type of player – strong, a good skater, a solid two-way player, physical. But, when you dig into it a little more, he’s got some offensive upside, as well. Whether or not that will transfer to the next level remains to be seen, but Toninato had 73 points this season for Duluth East and is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
178th Overall – Phoenix Coyotes – Samuel Fejes, LW, Shattuck St. Mary’s
Fejes is the type of player that the Coyotes seem to eat up with a spoon – gritty, hard-working with a touch of skill. After potting 38 goals in his second season for Shattuck, he could project to be a solid NHL power forward if he continues to develop. He won’t ever be the most skilled player on the ice, but he’ll usually be the hardest worker on the ice and he’s willing to go to the dirty areas to get the job done. Fejes is committed to play at Colorado College in the fall.
185th Overall – New York Islanders – Jake Bischoff, D, Grand Rapids
Thought of as one of the top puck-moving defensemen in the State of Hockey this season, Bischoff has the potential to be a steal for the Islanders in the seventh round. He has a long way to go in his development, but that should be no problem for an Islanders organization that has a wealth of young talent on their blue line. Bischoff loves to rush the puck and has the wheels to get back on defense when he does. He needs to grow, both physically and in his game, but he’s responsible with the puck and he carries it well in traffic, which is a definite start.
188th Overall – Minnesota Wild – Louis Nanne, LW, Edina
If there was one person beaming in the arena on Day Two of the NHL Draft, it was Minnesota Wild scout Marty Nanne, whose team selected his son Louis to join their organization. As with any late-round pick, Nanne is a work in progress. He’s got elite level skill and speed, but his size is a huge issue as he tends to get pushed around a bit on the ice which, in turn, can hinder his play in his own zone. But there’s no denying that Nanne comes from a hockey pedigree and from a family that is hockey royalty in the State of Hockey. While he’s a work in progress, he’s a work that could potentially pay off big down the road. Nanne is headed to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees next season.
204th Overall – Buffalo Sabres – Judd Peterson, C/RW, Duluth Marshall
The Sabres got a potential steal in Peterson, who scored 47 goals in 30 games for Duluth Marshall last season. Peterson, who will play for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL prior to going to St. Cloud State University in 2013, has a long way to go in his development. He needs to be smarter with the puck and a bit more aggressive with it, but he has the offensive instincts to be a star and he also is willing to do the dirty work, such as hitting and blocking shots, to get the win. He’s extremely strong and is great at working in tight spaces, even drawing comparisons to State of Hockey alum, Jamie Langenbrunner.