The high school hockey award season is around the corner, so it’s time for every amateur prognosticator to toss out some picks. These are the ten Mr. Hockey finalists I’d pick, not necessarily the ten I think will be picked. Here they are:
Jake Jaremko, Elk River
-Jaremko’s dominant Elite League performance has carried over into the regular season, and this MSU-Mankato recruit has thereby pulled into the top spot. In addition to being one of the state’s top AA scorers with a high ceiling, he has the added bonus of being his team’s clear-cut MVP; while some of the other top players have to share the spotlight some, there is no doubt that Elk River is Jaremko’s team, and it’s on his shoulders to carry a proud program back to State for the first time in ten years. I’ll reserve final judgment until after this Saturday, when I hope to get another look at him against Duluth East, but he’s probably the slight favorite now.
Dylan Malmquist, Edina
-My preseason pick is still right there in the running, though draft status and an inability to distinguish himself from junior teammate Garrett Wait may hurt his chances. I think this is unfortunate, and Malmquist has many strengths that don’t show up on the scoresheet, with his two-way play and unmatched prowess on the penalty kill. If Edina continues to dominate the Lake, he might yet get my nonexistent vote. The only way one of these top two doesn’t win is if draft status counts for a lot more than we think it does, and Jack Sadek pulls it out; I don’t see that happening.
Jack Poehling, Lakeville North
Jack McNeely, Lakeville North
-There’s a debate raging around which two of the four great seniors on undefeated North deserve the nod, and there are good arguments on all sides. The Poehling brothers’ line is dominant, but it’s hard to separate them out for individual recognition; the defensemen, meanwhile, are more likely to be drafted, and Jack Sadek is the highest listed Minnesota high schooler on the NHL Central Scouting midterm report. (Did someone mandate that all Lakeville boys born 18 years ago be named Jack?) Personally, I’d argue for splitting the difference, and taking one of each: the explosive top line and the dominant defense have been equally important for North’s great run this season. The numbers for each are practically identical, so I’ve gone with the two I think have been the slightly better high school players of each pair. Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it be Sadek and McNeely, and while I might buy an argument for picking more than two if a bunch of them were certain high draft picks, they’re not. They’re all fine players, but there’s a lot of talent in this state beyond Lakeville.
Christiano Versich, St. Thomas Academy
-As with the North kids, there’s no doubt STA will put one or maybe even two players on the list; the question is who. Versich’s lower point total may hurt, but as with Malmquist, I think he does more to make the players around him better, and has been asked to play a more complete role, holding down the second line. Seamus Donohue, a high-scoring defender, is one of the toughest players to leave off this list, and leading scorers Peter Tufto and Alec Broetzman have had fine years worthy of consideration as well.
Dixon Bowen, East Grand Forks
-Bowen is the leading scorer on a team with plenty of offensive talent. I’ll admit to not having seen much of the Green Wave this season, but the North Dakota recruit came into the season as my top senior in Class A, and it doesn’t look like his performance to date has done anything to cause much doubt on that front.
Jacob Olson, Hill-Murray
-The rock-solid Harvard commit has everything you look for in a Mr. Hockey Finalist: D-I commitment, is on the midterm list, and leads a great defense, which is the heart and soul of this Hill team. He’s certainly one of the frontrunners for the Reed Larson Award for the state’s top defenseman, though perhaps that will be thrown the way of one of the North players as a consolation prize.
Will Borgen, Moorhead
-Like Olson, Borgen is a D-I recruit, made the midterm rankings, and an essential piece of a team with a fairly thin offense. He doesn’t quite have the name recognition of some of the others on this list, but he has to be in the conversation.
Jack Ahcan, Burnsville
-Not blessed with the size of the above defensemen, but Ahcan is every bit as dominant in the high school game, and probably deserves a nod here.
Ryan Kero, Hermantown
-Lots of options for the final spot, but there’s a dearth of Class A players on my list, so I’ll give it to the top player on the top team there. He’s got great speed and finishes with style. He and Nate Pionk have been explosive in leading the Hawks’ top line; if they’re viewed as too interchangeable, give this spot to Donohue, whose chances may suffer due to the 4-5 other defensemen in the field.
Honorable mention: in addition to the North and St. Thomas players I’ve already jilted, there are a few others who deserve shoutouts. The unheralded Tommy Giller is having a big year at White Bear Lake, and with their Hill-Murray game looming, he has a chance to make his case on the biggest regular season stage available. Rosemount’s Lukas Gillett has no such stage, but has helped carry a weaker team that may yet make some noise down the stretch. Luke Jaycox and Kobe Roth at Warroad are both good enough, but have been slowed by injury issues. I think it’s wrong to nominate players who’ve missed significant time, but that hasn’t stopped them in the past. Benilde and Blaine have a couple of good players, but no one senior has really had a breakout season that screams “nominate me.”
With the disclaimer that I’m not much of a goalie scout, I’ll also take a stab at the Brimsek Award: Moorhead’s Jacob Dittmer was my favorite coming in, and his performance to date seems to back that up. That said, Hopkins’ Josh Kuehmichel has performed well, and if his numbers hold up down the stretch of a brutal Lake Conference schedule, he’ll have a very good argument. Burnsville’s Dylan Lubbesmeyer rounds out my finalist list, and I think the top three are actually pretty clear-cut here.
I believe nominees will be announced next week, and voting takes place before the State Tournament, though the awards are announced at a banquet immediately after it.