Blake McLaughlin, a Grand Rapids Thunderhawk, is University of Minnesota commit, who played this fall with the Chicago Steel in the USHL.
Demetrios Koumontzis, an Edina Hornet, is Arizona State University commit, who played this fall in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
Two great players, two future Mr. Hockey finalists, two future Division One hockey players, and two impressive preseasons. But whose is better? Whose is more impactful? Which Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) senior will benefit more from what they did this preseason?
I created a Twitter poll for this discussion and after over 700 votes the results were so close that I had to continue the talk.
To recap, in the High School Elite League, Koumontzis had 49 points (16G 33A) in 21 games. McLaughlin, on the other hand, had 7 points (2G 5A) in 8 USHL (which includes 3 USHL preseason games).
The argument for McLaughlin: The USHL is by far the best development league is in the United States and is now considered a top-3 junior league in the world. For Blake, a 17-year-old, to be playing in a league filled with 19 and 20 year-olds is impressive itself but to have an impact by adding scoring for the Chicago Steel makes it even more impressive. To compare, Casey Mittelstadt had 8 points in his first 8 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. McLaughlin is one point off the pace of a guy that went 8th overall in the NHL Draft, yeah I’d say that’s pretty good. McLaughlin could have played in the Elite League if he wanted to, I mean he did have 27 points in it last year as a junior, but instead, he challenged himself to go play with the best of the best in the USHL. He improved as a player playing against bigger, better, stronger players in games and even practices too.
The argument for Koumontzis: The Upper Midwest HS Elite League is a league built for high school aged kids to impress scouts with their skill set. The league has a lot of high-end offense, limited defense, and minimal checking. A perfect league for Koumontzis to dominate in, who is a forward who sees the ice very well and has great speed. Koumontzis took advantage of a league that is a perfect fit his playing style and he exceeded at it at a pinnacle level. He is playing against some of the best kids at his aged and is 8 points ahead of the next point getter, who just happens to be Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, Sam Walker. Koumontzis, who played in the Tier 1 Elite League (T1EHL) for the past few season with Phoenix Jr. Coyotes came into the HS Elite league and showed he’s here to dominate the MSHSL. He has light up eyes all over Minnesota and hockey fans can’t wait to see him in an Edina Hornets’ jersey.
In my opinion, Blake McLaughlin had a more impressive preseason and it not even close. It is a hell of a lot more impressive to get out of the state of Minnesota and challenge yourself in the USHL. McLaughlin did that. Open your eyes a look outside the MSHSL and experience hockey at its highest level. Minnesotans are sometimes blinded because of how loved high school is in the state but seriously it’s time to set out and see what else is out there. Minnesota has by far the best youth development across the country but when a high-end player gets to the age of 17-18 it’s time develop your game at the junior hockey level. The game is different when step outside Minnesota, some people just don’t even know that they don’t realize how different Minnesota is to rest of the hockey world. Sorry, but the high-end junior hockey is here to stay, high-end high school hockey is not. The USHL, the North American Hockey League (NAHL), T1EHL, you pick, its incredible hockey world outside the State of Hockey you just have to let yourself see it. It’s time to take off the blinders that Minnesota Hockey brings. There’s much more to hockey than packing the Xcel Energy with 20,000 fans for a State Tournament.