For those people that aren't familiar with the HS Elite League, it is basically a fall league that takes the best high school hockey players from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota and gives them the opportunity to play more games and to be scouted by the NHL, NCAA, USHL, and aspiring college hockey bloggists against top competition.
On Friday, GopherPuckLive poster Iceburg was able to travel down to Owantonna to watch Shattuck-St. Mary's take on the Team Southeast. You can read his recap of the game here.
On Sunday, I got the opportunity to take in a few games at the University of Minnesota and here were my impressions.
In was only able to catch the tail end of the first game between Team North and Team Great Plains. Team North was the superior team and ended up dominating the play. I was interested in seeing 2007 recruit Matt Crandall play in this game. Crandall was very solid with the puck on his stick. He seemed confident and made good decisions. He could probably work on being a little physical and punishing players more against boards, but overall, I was pretty impressed and could see him playing in the WCHA or CCHA one day. Less impressive was 2007 recruit Pat White. White started the year pretty high on the '07 recruiting board, but has slowly faded as he hasn't lived up to his hype. He had a couple bad shifts and took a bad penalty in the time I saw and certainly did nothing to help his position on the prospect board. I didn't really get a good chance to see anything out of '07 recruit Jascha Petit or '08 recruit Jake Johnson. Also, goalie Reid Ellingson wasn't playing when I was there.
Nobody really stood out for Team Great Plains. I didn't see Aaron Marvin, who impressed me at the Select 17 Festival, or Jordy Christian playing at all.
In the second game, Team Southeast took on Team Northwest. There wasn't really anybody on Team Northwest that I was interested in. Goalie Kent Patterson played half the game, but didn't really see much action.
For Team Southeast, I kept an eye on Gopher commit Jay Barriball. Barriball looked decent, but didn't really stand out at all. He never really god an opportunity to show off his much-talked-about speed, but on a few occassions, he showed that he can be lighting quick with the puck on his stick. He also got into a scrum with a Northwest player behind the play and totally lost the fight.
The player that impressed me the most for Team Southwest was Taylor Matson of Holy Angels. Matson was ranked as the number 19 uncommitted forward on the 2007 Recruiting Board, and certainly didn't do anything to hurt his position. Matson showed some unbelievable hands and stick-handling ability, twice putting a move on a defenseman and beating him clean. He wasn't able to finish either opportunity, but he certainly has the ability to create a lot of problems for opposing teams with his stick-handling ability.
The final player I was watching for Team Southwest was Josh Levine. Levine's effort for most of the game was pretty subpar. He wasn't involved in the play for most of the game, but once he got the puck on his stick, he turned into a different player. Especially when he got the puck down low, he turned into a bulldog. He may have the skating ability to create plays, but it's tough to get the puck away from him once he gets it. He'll probably need to develop into a better skater and improve his all-around game, but there is some talent there.
Defenseman Chris Student, a potential '08 recruit playd well enough to catch my attention. He's a very small defenseman, but is good with the puck and doesn't make too many mistakes.
In the final game of the day, Shattuck-St. Mary's took on Team Northeast. This year's Shattuck team lacks the great player it has had in the past, and was really dominated by Team Northeast. Though Shattuck controlled the play for some of the second period, they never really mounted any serious offensive attack and ended up losing 6-2.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't have a Shattuck roster and they don't wear names on the backs of their jerseys so I had no idea who anybody was. The only player I recognized by face was Minnesota State recruit Ben Youds. Youds didn't have his best game, but it's difficult for an offensive defenseman to do much when he's forced to play defense the large majority of the time. Youds probably needs to work on his outlet passes a little more, and work on being more physical, but he did an excellent job quarterbacking the powerplay.
Before the tournament, I would have guessed that '07 recruit Mike Hoeffel, the 6th ranked uncommitted forward, would be the best player in the league, and he certainly looked like it. Hoeffel was about as close to a complete package as there is. He has very good size, and uses it pretty well. He can also skate exceptionally well for someone his size, and has a very heavy snap shot that he loves to use. The only problem was that he had the accuracy of a Stormtrooper today. He had three quality scoring chances today and put all three shots over the net. One beat the goalie cleanly, but hit the crossbar, while the other two missed badly. If he improves his scoring touch a little, he'll be a very good player.
The big scorer for Northeast today was Mike Dorr. Dorr played on a line with Hoeffel and tallied two goals. The first came on a breakaway that he finished with a nice deke, while the second came when he jammed home a scramble down low. He showed great offensive instincts on both goals.
The third player on the Hoeffel-Dorr line was '07 recruit Nick Larson. Larson may not have had the same skills as his two linemates, but his size will earn him some serious looks, and if he improves a little, he could develop into a nice power forward.