Each week I will recap the top players and top teams in the great hockey state of Minnesota.
Games January 30th
Saturday was a good day of high school hockey in Minnesota as many of the top teams were in action. The top game of the day was Hill-Murray, #1 in Class AA took on the #3 team in Class AA, in Elk River. Elk River started off the scoring but the Hill-Murray Pioneers came right back to tie it up. Elk River’s star defensemen Paul Martin tallied a power play goal early in the 2nd, but Hill-Murray came back to tie it up 3 minutes later. The 3rd period belonged to the Elk River Elks as they scored 3 goals to seal the victory. Paul Martin scored his 2nd goal of the game and played solid defensive hockey to pace the Elks to victory.
Other action in the Twin Cities area included Armstrong upsetting Class AA #9 Edina 5-1. Edina’s only goal came from Jeff Yurecko, who’s ranked 197 by the Central Scouting Bureau. St. Louis Park, ranked #5 in Class A got hammered 4-0 by Wayzata. Holy Angels stayed undefeated as they beat Prior Lake 5-0 and outshot them 44-13. Blake #6 in Class A beat St. Paul Academy 4-1. Warroad, a traditional power in Class A is in a slight slump as they lost to St. Paul Johnson 4-1. Warroad must get it’s game together for the stretch run in the playoffs.
Welcome to the February edition of the Buffalo Sabres Top 20 prospects. This update features the removal of one name from the prospect list (Erik Rassmussen), the addition of another (Brad Moran) and some general upward or downward movement amongst the other prospects.
The removal of Erik Rassmussen was a tough call on my part. There are those that would insist that Erik, because he has spent a good portion of this season with the Sabres, should now be considered a bona fide big league hockey player. While this is a good point in general, anyone who has seen Erik play over the last month realizes that he is nowhere near being ready for prime time. I would argue, in fact, that the best place for him at this time would be Rochester, where he can better develop his offensive game. My point of view is probably not the popular one, though, so, in the interest of bipartisanship, I am removing Erik from the Top 20.
There are a lot of scouts throughout the NHL who will tell you that the San Jose Sharks have the best group of young defensemen in their system than any other team in the NHL. Included in this list are players such as: Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Andrei Zyuzin, Mike Rathje, and more… What makes San Jose’s defensemen so appealing, is not only that they’re good, not only that they have more than a few of them, but that they have all different types, for a well rounded defense as well. While every team wants to have a specific direction, you also want some variety. They have big guys, smaller guys, and everything in between. What I intend here is to go through some of San Jose’s main defensive young guys, and let you know what to possibly expect in the future from them.
JONATHAN HEDSTRÖM: A LOOK AT A LONGSHOT PROSPECT
After having covered many of the more talked about Swedish prospects in this column, it’s now high time to mention some longshot prospects. Every now and them, a long-shot prospect arrives from nowhere and makes it to the NHL.
When you’re picked 221st overall, no one – perhaps not even the management of the team that drafted you – expects you to make it. But there’s a small chance, and with enough determination you might just make it.
Determination is not in short supply for 21 year old Division 1-team Skellefteå AIK left winger Jonathan Hedström, who was picked by 221st overall by the Leafs in the 1997 Draft. After having a sub-par season by his standards in 1997/1998 (scored only 5 goals and has 5 assists in 32 games), he has emerged as a solid point-producer and leader for his team this season while playing the powerforward role that made him a regular on the team in the first place. In 29 games, he has scored 13 goals, and he has 23 assists, to go with a team-best +24 rating. To go with that he has a solid 50 PIM.
Despite the almost one assist per game average, he is not a playmaker. His assist come mainly from hard work along the boards and digging out pucks before feeding passes to his linemates. His shot is average, and that has to improve.
Why would any team trade their best player for Alexandre Daigle? Jacques Demers sure answered that question when he said he was capable of being the first-line winger in his first game. He has the potential to be a highly touted superstar in this league? Sure fooled anyone who thought he’d excel in Philly. Is this a joke, or does Jacques have something up his sleeve for Alex? It is the third time this year the new GM has dealt with the Flyers, picking up Chris Gratton again, Mike Sillinger, and Petr Svoboda. He must know what he’s doing, because look what he did with players such as Gerard Gallant and Bernie Federko? They don’t sound like big names do they? Bernie is on his way to the hall of fame. Gerard Gallant played good hockey in his final years in the league, mixing grit with pure goal scoring, all because of Jacques Demers.
FIRST ROUND CORNUCOPIA
There are now seven first-round picks on the team: Daigle, Chris Gratton, Wendel Clark, Jason Bonsignore, Paul Mara, Martin Larocque and Vincent Lecavalier. Out of the crop, only one has actually excelled into a complete player, while two others showed flashes of brilliance. Can you guess who they are? They brought back Chris Gratton in the infamous trade-back with Bob Clarke and the Flyers. The question now is, who are the Bolts going to build around? Roman Hamrlik looked like a great idea, but he got stolen by Glen Sather last year. Wendel Clark is bright, but he’s already on the trading block.
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