Minnesota State High School League State Tournament Review

By Jody Horak

It is every kid’s dream when they lace up skates in Minnesota.  To one day, put on the jersey of the school and community you live in, to skate out onto the ice to 18,000 screaming fans at the Xcel Energy Center, the home to the Minnesota Wild.  To hear the fight song of the school band and the national anthem, to get ready for the introductions, say “hi mom and dad” or wink to the camera, some using the platform to be spoken advertisements for community businesses.  For some, it’s the greatest stage to show off their hair and the hard work and creativity they must do to try and make that treasured “all hockey hair team.”  Most importantly, it’s the hard work and sacrifices made by so many people of the same school and community coming together to watch 20 young men reach the dream of playing in the state high school hockey tournament and trying to achieve that ultimate goal:  winning a state championship with your buddies you’ve skated with and known your whole life.  

It brings a camaraderie like no other, people from all over the state (whose teams are not even in it) coming to take it in and watch the competition level, traditions that have lasted years for many, heck, I even take these four days off from work every year because there is nothing better than watching kids achieve their dreams, the purity and compete level of just playing the game; not for money, not for attention, and certainly not for themselves.  Playing to win a title for each other, their coaches, their families, and their whole community who are all their biggest fans and supporters.  There is nothing better at this level in the entire country folks and it’s not even close.  It’s the time of year where the phrase was coined, “the North hates the metro, the metro hates private schools and everyone hates Edina…”  

Phil Housley (South St. Paul), Neal Broten (Roseau), Jamie Langenbrunner (Cloquet), Matt Cullen (Moorhead), Mark Parrish (Bloomington Jefferson), Paul Martin (Elk River), TJ Oshie (Warroad), Blake Wheeler (Breck), Ryan McDonagh (Cretin-Derham Hall), and Brock Nelson (Warroad)…these are all prominent past and present NHL players whose talent and skills were first put on display playing in the state hockey tournament.  Broten, Langenbrunner, Cullen, Oshie and McDonagh won Stanley Cups and they will be the first to tell you that playing in the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament ranks right up there with winning the Stanley Cup.  Mark Parrish comes back every year to do the broadcasting for the tournament and he’s always so excited and happy to watch these kids and is in awe at the talent and compete level every year.  He played over 700 games in the NHL and he always must mention that the greatest time of his life was playing in this tournament, with his best buddies, and winning state titles… 

This year’s state tournament provided a flair for the dramatics.  Several overtime games, an almost epic upset for the ages, and a first in the 79-year history of the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament: hat tricks from two players on different teams in the state championship game.  That was the instant classic Class A title game between the Mahtomedi Zephyrs and the undefeated Warroad Warriors.  Mahtomedi came back from two goals down twice and scored the game winner in double overtime to end Warroad’s undefeated dream season 6-5 and win the state championship.  After narrowly escaping a crushing upset to Hill Murray in the opening round, the Minnetonka Skippers defeated the Edina Hornets 2-1 in the Class AA championship after an Edina opportunity in the closing minute clanked off both pipes and bounced out.    

The Tourney brings out college coaches from all over the country, NHL and junior league scouts.  It has provided a platform for some players to stand out and get noticed, to try and become the next Broten, Oshie or McDonagh.  Let’s look at the players of the tournament who stood out the most, as it was an extremely talented, competitive list to narrow down. 

Class A 

#30 G, Keaton Walock, Northfield Raiders, 6’0”, 170, L, DOB 11.5.04 

An athletic and poised goaltender, Walock’s play in net almost moved Northfield to the semifinal but came up just short in OT to Orono.  He stopped 48 of 50 shots and a handful of his saves were spectacular.  He moves side to side quickly and his butterfly positioning is spot on, pads tight together, stick in front covering the five-hole.  He squares up to the shooter, does not leave much on the short side and challenges well.  I like his reflexes, quickness, and that he stays focused on the puck and seems to always know where it is.  He gives up rebounds here and there, but he recovers well to get in position to make a second save and cover up the puck.  He plays the position with confidence; nothing seems to rattle him or take away his focus on stopping the puck.  Has a quick glove but his biggest attribute is his technique and quickness playing the butterfly style.  At the goaltending position, Walock was a standout in the tournament.  Walock posted a .95 SV % and a 2.00 GAA in 2 games at the tourney. 

#17 RW, Jayson Shaugabay, Warroad Warriors, 5’9”, 153, R, 4.5.05 

Shaugabay had the best vision and playmaking ability of anyone I watched in the tournament.  His ability to know where everyone on his team is on the ice is an exceptional thing to see.  He had a half dozen passes in this tourney that made your mouth drop or just sit in amazement.  He also protects the puck so well with his positioning, making it difficult for the opposing team to get the puck away from him.  He logged more minutes than any forward in the tournament, playing at a high level and seeming to find a second gear even when shifts were too long.  He had 8 points, 13 SOG, 0 PIM, 0 BS and was a +6 for the tourney.  He is good on his edges and can turn up the ice quickly with his smooth skating.  Has incredible patience with the puck and his decision making.  His team did not win the elusive title but after the tournament, Shaugabay was awarded the Mr. Hockey award, given to the best senior hockey player in the state.  He is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a 2023 NHL draft eligible. 

#18 C, Carson Pilgrim, Warroad Warriors, 5’10”, 157, R, DOB 2.20.06 

If you want a player with speed on your team, look no further than Pilgrim.  He had two hat tricks in this tournament, including in the state championship game.  He is a dynamic skater with elusive speed.  A player can be defending him and in good position and the next thing you know, Pilgrim has blown right by.  He has a great work ethic and hustles on both ends of the rink.  He has great craftsmanship with the puck, soft hands but also the ability to get a wrist shot off and label it for the corners with precision.  Being only a junior, he has tremendous offensive upside to look forward to.  He is an accurate passer, good at keeping it in front of his line mates so they can receive the pass in stride.  He was a big-time performer and the pressure never fazed him throughout the tourney, finishing with 8 points, 26 SOG, 0 PIM, 2 BS and a +6.  Look for him to be one of the top forwards coming out of Minnesota next season.  2024 NHL draft eligible. 

#1 G, Hampton Slukynsky, Warroad Warriors, 6’1”, 179, L, DOB 7.2.05 

Slukynsky may have given up 6 goals in the championship game but he had several point blank, high-quality saves in the game and had a strong tournament overall.  He plays with a calm demeanor and great leadership which is a huge advantage to have in the crease.  He plays a hybrid, butterfly style of goaltending.  He shows great flexibility, has great anticipation in reading the play and when to challenge shooters.  He is active with his stick, will play the puck up and stop pucks behind the net that are dumped in and set it up for his defenseman.  He does not always control his rebounds the best, but he does maintain good positioning and focus to make the second or third save.  Finished the tourney with a .90 SV%, and a 3.33 GAA.  Slukynsky was awarded the Frank Brimsek award the day after the tourney, given to the best senior goaltender in the state.  He will continue his hockey future collegiately at Northern Michigan.  2023 NHL draft eligible. 

#11 LW, Charlie Drage, Mahtomedi Zephyrs, 5’11”, 161, L, DOB 1.26.05 

I don’t think there was anyone in the tournament that was as clutch of a performer as Drage.  Tied 1-1 in the semifinal in a disciplined defensive battle against Hermantown, Drage skated down one on two and ripped a wrister with about 48 seconds left beyond the high slot area and it went upper corner, bar down, sending Mahtomedi to the championship game.  It was there, again, he showed his great leadership and ability to put his team on his back and netted a hat trick in the third period to tie the game against Warroad, coming back from two goals down twice in the period.  There are elements you can teach but the drive and will of this young man reflected his character.  He scores goals with precise shooting and a great release on his wrist shot, but he also plays two-way hockey.  He covers his player defensively and he hustles on the back check.  Has good vision on the ice, makes smart, accurate passes and does not try to force pucks.  Drage had a tournament (8 points, 23 SOG, 0 PIM, 5 BS, +5) many will never forget and brought home a second state championship for Mahtomedi.  2023 NHL draft eligible. 

Class AA 

#21 D, Colton Jamieson, Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders, 6’1”, 185, L, DOB 11.28.04 

A talented two-way defenseman, Jamieson is excellent in his transition skating.  He moves the puck from his own zone with accurate, crisp passes.  He has good sense and vision in seeing when the opportunities are available to him to rush the puck up ice and is not hesitant to do so.  Plays a disciplined defensive game, has a strong body that allows him to pin guys in the defensive corner and it’s difficult to get around him.  Positions himself well to be an option for his defensive partner and corrals passes in stride to keep moving up the ice.  He is tough to beat one-on-one defensively and rarely gets beat wide.  He needs to improve finding his assignment in front of his own net sooner, but Jamieson is a great skating defenseman with strong offensive and defensive capabilities.  I thought he was Cretin-Derham Hall’s most consistent player throughout the tourney.  He had 0 points, 7 SOG, 6 BS and was -5 for the tournament.  Committed to the University of St. Thomas.  2023 NHL draft eligible. 

#4 D, Garrett Lindberg, Moorhead Spuds, 5’8”, 165, R, DOB 3.8.07 

Lindberg was Moorhead’s best player in the tournament and only being a sophomore, he looks to have a bright future ahead.  He had a beautiful goal in the quarterfinals when he rushed it up the ice and used his speed to beat the defender wide on his backhand side, and just as he cut to the net pulled the puck to his forehand and roofed it over the goalie into the net.  He had 2 points, 5 SOG, 2 PIM, 5 BS and was a -2 in 2 state tournament games.  He displays incredible patience with the puck, confidence in his decision-making, and does not panic with the puck.  He plays with great maturity as a youngster.  Played penalty kill, power play, and logged heavy minutes as the top defenseman for Moorhead.  Has a good release on his shot from the blue line, keeps it low trying to get it through screens or looking for tips.  Has good gap control on players skating into the defensive zone and angles them wide, not giving them much of a shooting lane.  He is a solid, talented, skilled defenseman.  2025 NHL draft eligible. 

#20 D, Landon Cottingham, Hill Murray Pioneers, 5’10”, 165, R, DOB 4.3.07 

This was a breakout performance for the young Cottingham.  Along with his goaltender, Cottingham almost helped Hill Murray to an epic upset over top-ranked Minnetonka, if only they took 1:01 off the game (when Minnetonka tied the game to send it to OT).  He had two goals and an assist in that game.  His first goal was a result of his strong skating and rushing it over the blue line, seeing he was one-on-three, he rifled a quick wrister from just inside the blue line and beat the goalie high.  It was an amazing individual effort.  He also played solid defensively, blocking shots and tying up players in front of his net, not giving the forwards much space to get to the front of the net or get prime scoring chances.  He is a solid two-way defenseman.  Finished the state tournament with 6 points, 6 SOG, 2 PIM, 2 BS and was a +4.  Helped lead Hill Murray to a consolation trophy and was named to the all-tournament team, the only sophomore from the whole tourney to make it.  2025 NHL draft eligible. 

#12 RW, Gavyn Thoreson, Andover Huskies, 5’8”, 183, L, DOB 10.30.04 

Despite not being as consistent as I’ve seen him be before, Thoreson was still one of the standout players in the tournament.  In three state tournament games, he had 7 points, 18 SOG, 6 PIM, 1 BS and was a +5.  He possesses great speed and has great playmaking skills but also glimpses of scoring touch, with his go to the net style of play.  He has great edgework, stops and starts quickly and eludes defenders with his shifty edges.  He finds ways to get open with his speed on the breakout and catch passes on the fly with soft hands.  His work ethic is unmatched, he is always outhustling others on the ice.  He did get knocked around more than I’ve seen before, and it could have been playing against bigger, stronger forwards (Minnetonka) but he will need to increase his strength and balance on his skates at the next level.  He has a lot of speed, finesse, playmaking ability and a compete level that make him an intriguing prospect.  He is committed to St. Cloud State University.  2023 NHL draft eligible.  

#21 RW, Bobby Cowan, Edina Hornets, 5’11”, 176, R, DOB, 6.12.06 

I’ll be honest, never even heard of Bobby Cowan until the state tournament.  I know his name now.  He can score goals and he has a lot of finesse to his game and great dangling capabilities that he displayed a few times throughout the tourney.  He took the puck and toe-dragged one defender and went through the legs of the other before roofing it into the upper corner on the goaltender on one of his goals in the tournament.  He finished the tournament with 7 points, 12 SOG, 2 PIM, 1 BS and was a +6, and was a catalyst for Edina in getting to the state championship game.  He will not dazzle you with his skating but his natural ability to shoot the puck and score goals along with his crafty, soft hands makes him someone to keep an eye on next season.  He does a great job separating from defenders in the neutral zone to be an option for long, breakout passes.  Has a shoot first mentality, balanced on his skates and good at getting into high scoring areas.  2024 NHL draft eligible. 

#18 C, Jackson Nevers, Edina Hornets, 6’0”, 202, R, DOB 7.27.05 

Nevers is the heart and soul of this Edina team.  He has a tremendous work ethic, wears the “C” and shows incredible leadership.  He plays a tough, strong game and is not afraid to be physical.  He is a solid two-way forward, plays smart in all zones, back checks hard defensively and goes to the net hard offensively.  He is great in the face-off circle.  He is heavily relied upon to play against opposing team’s best forwards.  Very capable and successful penalty killer.  He keeps his feet moving, stops and starts, has his stick in the passing lanes and forces shots from the perimeter or low-quality scoring areas.  He does a good job dishing off passes coming into the offensive zone and then going to the net hard for rebounds.  Nevers had 2 points, 10 SOG, 2 PIM, 4 BS, and was a +4 in three games at the tournament.  He plays very consistently, knows and understands the game with great hockey sense.  Potential to be a bottom six forward, and a solid penalty killer at the NHL level.  Nevers is committed to the University of Minnesota.  2023 NHL draft eligible. 

#23 D, John Stout, Minnetonka Skippers, 6’0”, 179, L, DOB 4.20.06 

Stout is a poised, elite level skater who has vast offensive capabilities from the back end.  He has great sense when to pass it up the ice or can see when he has time and space and will rush it up ice.  He can get caught in the offensive zone too much when the puck gets turned over but with his skating ability is able to get back and defend quickly.  He is excellent quarterbacking the power play and trying to draw penalty killers out of position and creating odd-man situations in dangerous scoring areas.  Plays disciplined hockey, very good defending on the rush, steps up appropriately and angles well.  He has excellent playmaking ability with his meticulous passing and patience with the puck.  He was Minnetonka’s best defenseman in my opinion and a huge reason they won the state championship.  He finished with 2 points, 8 SOG, 0 PIM, 6 BS and was a +3 for the tourney.  Stout has a bright future ahead of him and should be considered a solid defensive prospect for next season.  Committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  2024 NHL draft eligible. 

#19 RW, Hagen Burrows, Minnetonka Skippers, 6’2”, 165, R, DOB 10.13.05 

Burrows was Minnetonka’s best player in the tournament and that is saying a lot with how much talent they have on their team.  He is a natural goal scorer who just knows how to score goals, and where to shoot from.  He is an excellent prototype of a power forward.  He plays a strong, tough, physical style of offense.  Protects the puck well in tight and in the corners with his balance and size.  Plays smart in the neutral zone, can create turnovers with his anticipation and move the puck into the offensive zone to create scoring opportunities.  He will not blow you away with his speed, but his skating is solid for his size and his crossovers are quick.  Played on the power play down low, creating many scoring chances trying to skate out to the front of the net and get shots.  Burrows scored timely goals all tournament long and was a huge factor in Minnetonka winning the state championship.  Finished the tourney with 5 points, 10 SOG, 4 PIM and was a +3.  I look for him to receive more notoriety next season after his performance in the tourney.  2024 NHL draft eligible. 

Photos courtesy Aaron Lavinsky & Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune


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