Minnesota High School Hockey: Section Playoffs Preview

around_the_arenas_topaa_235Minnesota High School Hockey is coming down to the wire and the section playoffs are right around the corner. When we get this far along in the season, we can not help to start making predictions on whose is going to make it to the “The Tourney 16,” and continue their quest at a state title. To simplify things for you, I’m going to give you my top two favorites in each sections and a third team that could be a sleeper pick to steal the state tournament bid.


Section 1

Favorites: Lakeville North (19-5-1) and Farmington (15-8-1)

Sleeper Team: Rochester John Marshall (19-6-0)

Players To Watch: Lakeville North- #4 Ryan Poehling Jr. Forward 20G 34A 54 Points Committed to St. Cloud State.

Lakeville North- #6 Max Johnson Sr. Forward 27G 19A 46 Points Committed to Bowling Green

Farmington- #18 Tyler Jette Sr. Defensemen 5G 17A 22 Points (Ranked 168th amongst North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft) (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Rochester John Marshall- #5 Brady Dahl Sr. Forward 22G 27A 49 Points

My Pick: Lakeville North

The defending State Champs, Lakeville North, do not have the dominant team that they had last year but still have an extraordinary amount of talent that will be enough to get them back to the Tourney. Farmington is a team that could challenge them but in the end, with experienced players like Max Johnson and Ryan Poehling, I believe that the Panthers will repeat as Section One champions.

Section 2

Favorites: Minnetonka (18-6-1) and Holy Family (19-5-0)

Sleeper Team: Eden Prairie (16-7-2)

Players To Watch: Minnetonka– #10 Brendan Skarda Sr. Forward 17G 19A 36 Points 

Eden Prairie- #11 Casey Mittelstadt Jr. Forward 22G 37A 59 Points Committed to University of Minnesota

Eden Praire- #16 Michael Graham Sr. Forward 14G 29A 43 Points Committed to Notre Dame (Ranked 85th amongst North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft) (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Holy Family- #16 Will Garin Sr. Forward 24G 23A 47 Points Committed to Connecticut (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

My Pick: Eden Prairie

Section Two is stacked, any one of these three teams could make the Tourney 16. However, I am leaning towards Eden Prairie to take the section title because of their depth and their experience. They are looking for their third straight trip to state and are led by a future Gopher, Casey Mittelstadt and a future Irishmen, Michael Graham. Mittelstadt was very impressive in last year’s state tournament and even though he is only a junior, this will most likely be his last year of high school hockey (before heading to the USHL) I’m sure he, and the Eagles, will be looking to go out on top.

Section 3

Favorites: St. Thomas Academy (14-6-5) and Burnsville (13-10-2)

Sleeper Team: Bloomington Jefferson (13-2-0)

Players To Watch: St. Thomas Academy- #3 Jason Smallidge Sr. Defensemen 8 G 18A 26 Points

St. Thomas Academy- #9 Billy Jerry Sr. Forward 21G 18A 39 Points

Burnsville-#22 Cade Borchardt Sr. Forward 19G 25A 44 Points

Bloomington Jefferson- #14 Ryan Graff Sr. Forward 15G 15A 30 Points

My Pick: St. Thomas Academy

After dominating for so long in Class A, St. Thomas Academy seems to be doing just fine in Class AA. STA might have the best defensemen is the state, Jason Smallidge was recently mentioned in the Central Scouting Players to Watch for the 2016 NHL Draft . With a strong blueline, it is almost a lock STA is heading to the State Tournament.

Section 4

Favorites: Stillwater (23-1-1) and Hill-Murray (15-8-2)

Sleeper Team: Tartan (15-8-2)

Players To Watch: Stillwater- #11 Noah Cates Jr. Forward 20G 34A 54 Points

Stillwater- #15 Luke Manning Jr. Forward 21G 22A 43 Points

Hill-Murray- #19 Casey Staum Sr. Defensemen 3G 4A 7 Points Committed to Nebraska Omaha (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Tartan- #15 Sam Lindahl Jr. Forward 12G 18A 30 Points

My Pick: Stillwater

The Stillwater Ponies will only be looking for the second ever State Tournament appearance heading into the 2016 Section playoffs. The Ponies have brought a lot of horsepower on the offensive side of things this season. They are tailing over five goals per game during the regular season. Lead by a couple of juniors, Noah Cates and Luke Manning, Stillwater is my pick to gallop into the Tourney 16 from Section Four.

Section 5

Favorites: Blaine (21-4-0) and Centennial (18-6-1)

Sleeper Team: Anoka (15-9-0)

Players To Watch: Blaine- #17 Luke Notermann Sr. Forward 28G 50A 78 Points Committed to University of Minnesota (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Blaine- #27 Riley Tufte Sr. Forward 47G 31A 78 Points Committed to Minnesota Duluth (Ranked 17th amongst North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft) (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Centennial- #4 Tyler Nyman Sr. Forward 18G 30A 48 Points

Anoka- #23 Isaac Johnson Jr. Forward 23G 18A 41 Points

My Pick: Blaine

When we get to Section Five, we get the opportunity to rave about the best player in the state, Riley Tufte, from the Blaine Bengals. Tufte was recent mentioned in the Central Scouting Players to Watch as a potential first round or second round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. His 6’5” size reminds a lot of people of another former Blaine Bengal that’s having a pretty good start to his NHL career, Nick Bjugstad of the Florida Panthers. Mix in the future Minnesota Gopher, Luke Notermann, and Blaine has more than enough star-power to get them into the Tourney 16.

Section 6

Favorites: Benilde-St.Margaret (24-0-1) and Edina (14-9-2)

Sleeper Team: Wayzata (16-8-1)

Players To Watch: BSM- #6 Cade Gleekel Sr. Forward 22G 36A 58 Points (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

B-S-M- #4 Nick Austin Sr. Defensemen 11G 25A 36 Points

Edina- #10 Sam Walker So. Forward 19G 18A 37 Points Committed to University of Minnesota

Edina- #12 Ben Copeland Jr. Forward 15G 20A 35 Points

My Pick: BSM

The only undefeated team in the state comes out of Section Six. Leading the Knights in Section Six is Mr. Hockey finalist, Cade Gleekel from Benilde-St. Margaret, who is have a remarkable season. BSM is my pick to win this section because even though they play in the strongest section in Minnesota, they have managed put together an undefeated season heading into the playoffs. BSM has three state tournament appearances and each of those times they have ended the season as State Champs; this year could be the same.

Section 7

Favorites: Grand Rapids (18-6-1) and Elk River (17-7-1)

Sleeper Team: Duluth East (16-9-0)

Players To Watch: Grand Rapids- #21 Mitchell Mattson points Sr. Forward 17G 29A 46 Points Committed to North Dakota (Ranked 49th amongst North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft) (Mr.Hockey Finalist)

Elk River- #27 Max Michaelis Jr. Forward 24G 20A 44 Points

Duluth East- #26 Ash Altmann Sr. Forward 18G 24A 42 Points

My Pick: Duluth East

The Duluth East Greyhounds had a rough stretch in the middle of season in which they went 3-7-0 but since then, they are 10-2-0, heading into the sectional playoffs. Looking at their record, many people may shy away from picking the Greyhounds, especially with the extremely talented Grand Rapids team in the same section. But as we saw last year, Duluth East is a team that is built for playoff hockey. Mike Randolph is the best coach in the state, in my opinion, and is seeking his eighth straight state tournament appearance. He has his team playing at their best, when it matters the most.


Section 8

Favorites: Bemidji (21-2-2) and Moorhead (14-10-0)

Sleeper Team: Brainerd (13-11-1)

Players To Watch: Bemidji #21 Nick Leitner Sr. Defensemen 12G 26A 38 Points

Bemidji- #19 Brady Tatro Jr. Forward 14G 24A 38 Points

Moorhead- #6 Carter Randklev So. Forward 10G 18A 28 Points

Moorhead- #4 Jack Fahrendorf Sr. Forward 13G 13A 26 Points

My Pick: Bemidji

Quietly, the Bemidji Lumberjacks are having a great season. They play with the stereotypical “northern hockey” style. They are physical, gritty, and depend on their strong defense to create scoring chances. Bemidji is looking for their first back-to-back section title since 1986.



Section 1

Favorites: Northfield (18-6-0) and Mankato West (12-11-2)

Sleeper Team: Mankato East (15-9-1)

Players To Watch: Northfield- #2 Ryan Torbenson Sr. Forward 24G 29A 53 Points

Northfield- #22 Jacob Halvorson So. Forward 22G 11A 33 Points

Mankato West- #18 Tyler Loe Sr. Forward 21G 20A 41 Points

My Pick: Northfield


Section 2

Favorites: Breck (21-3-1) and Delano (18-7-0)

Sleeper Team: Orono (15-9-1)

Players To Watch: Breck- #8 Chase Ellingson Sr. Forward 34G 31A 65 Points (Mr. Hockey Finalist)

Breck- #15 Mitch Machlitt Jr. Forward 26G 22A 48 Points

Delano- #27 Ben Meyers Jr. Forward 32G 30A 62 Points

My Pick: Breck


Section 3

Favorites: Luverne (20-5-0) and Redwood Valley (16-6-0)

Sleeper Team: Litchfield (17-8-0)

Players To Watch: Luverne- #7 Jaxon Nelson So. Forward 70G 43A  113 Points Committed to University of Minnesota

Luverne- #8 Chaz Smedsrud Sr. Forward 38G 56A 94 Points

Redwood Valley- #13 Bailey Sommers Jr. Forward 43G 26A 69 Points

My Pick: Luverne


Section 4

Favorites: Mahtomedi (16-6-3) and St. Paul Academy (20-5-0)

Sleeper Team: Minnehaha Academy (15-9-1)

Players To Watch: Mahtomedi- #28 Andrew Kangas Sr. Forward 10G 33A 43 Points

St. Paul Academy- #19 Jack Johnston Jr. Forward 24G 18A 42 Points

St. Paul Academy- #11 Matt Dahlseide Jr. Forward 23G 28A 51 Points

Minnehaha Academy- #11 Josh Radtke Sr. Forward 17G 31A 48 Points

My Pick: St. Paul Academy


Section 5

Favorites: Princeton (18-7-0) and Chisago Lakes (11-14-0)

Sleeper Team: Mora (15-10-0)

Players To Watch: Princeton- #3 Jake Carlson Jr. Forward 14G 34A 48 Points

Chisago Lakes- #8 Landon Lushanko Sr. Defensemen 19G 20A 39 Points

Mora- #19 Nick Burski Sr. Forward 26G 28A 54 Points

My Pick: Princeton


Section 6

Favorites: St. Cloud Apollo (23-2-0) and St. Cloud Cathedral (17-7-1)

Sleeper Team: Little Falls (17-7-1)

Players To Watch: St. Cloud Apollo- #32 Nick Althaus Sr. Goalie 1.47GAA .930SV% (Frank Brimsek Finalist)

St. Cloud Apollo- #17 Gino Lucia Sr. Forward 18G 33A 51 Points

St. Cloud Cathedral- #2 Logan Neu Sr. Forward 18G 27A 45 Points

Little Falls- #6 Landon Bjorge Sr. Forward 23G 14A 37 Points

My Pick: St. Cloud Apollo


Section 7

Favorites: Hermantown (21-2-1) and Hibbing (22-3-0)

Sleeper Team: Greenway (21-4-0)

Players To Watch: Hermantown- #27 Cole Koepke Sr. Forward 31G 22A 53 Points

Hermantown- #5 Wyatt Aamodt Sr. Defensemen 5G 25A 30 Points (Mr. Hockey finalist)

Hibbing- #7 Scott Perunovich Jr. Defensemen 13G 55A 68 Points Committed to Minnesota Duluth (Ranked 109th amongst North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft)

Greenway- #11 Taylor Lantz Jr. Forward 22G 35A 57 Points

My Pick: Hermantown


Section 8

Favorites: Thief River Falls (19-6-0)  and East Grand Forks (13-10-2)

Sleeper Team: Park Rapids (13-11-1)

Players To Watch: Thief River Falls- #14 Ethan Johnson Sr. Forward 39G 17A 56 Points

EGF- #19 Tanner Tweten Sr. Forward 17G 18A 35 Points

EGF- #29 Grant Loven Sr. Forward 2G 2A 4 Points (Missed most of the season with an injury)

Park Rapids- #7 Chase Brand Jr. Forward 32G 36A 68 Points

My Pick: Thief River Falls

About Gaven Bickford

Big Hockey Guy Follow Me on Twitter @GavenBicks18
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One Response to Minnesota High School Hockey: Section Playoffs Preview

  1. gopherfan7 says:

    Interesting that you leave off the top scorer coming out of section 1A in Judd Schulz with 63 points.

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