This weekend was the Ted Brill Great 8 Festival, a tournament that features (most of) the best seniors in Minnesota High School hockey. The rosters are here.
I made it up to South St. Paul on Sunday, the last day of the tournament. Here are my thoughts on what I was able to see. I'll break it up into two posts, starting with kids that have committed to college, and then talk about some kids that haven't committed to a college yet.
Colorado College recruit Tyler Johnson got hurt on Friday, and rumors are that he broke his collarbone again. Obviously it is a shame if he has to miss some more time due to this injury. I'm sure some people will question why he was even playing this weekend, since he is all lined for college, and coming off a recent injury, but at the same time, this is an event that a lot of NHL scouts come to, and I'm sure he's interested in trying to improve his draft position, plus, it's always tough for a competitive kid to turn down an opportunity to play. Hopefully he heals up quickly and is ready for next fall.
Since Johnson wasn't playing, I thought the most impressive player was Jack Connolly, who recently committed to Minnesota-Duluth. He's an unbelievable passer. He created an opportunity just about every time he touched the puck. Plus, it is probably a perfect situation for Duluth. Connolly is incredibly excited to be a Bulldog, and is willing to play two years of juniors before joining the team, which should definitely help him. And because of his lack of size, he'll likely be a four year player for Duluth. I really think he'll be an excellent college player.
The next best player I saw was Mike Louwerse, who has committed to Minnesota State. Louwerse really flew under the radar this year, because he struggled with some injury problems early this season, which kept him quiet in the Elite League, and kept his HS stats down, and kids that commit to Mankato don't tend to draw as much attention as kids that commit to other in-state schools, but he was extremely impressive today. I think he finished the tournament with like 8 points in 3 games. I haven't heard if a final decision has been made, but he could be suiting up for the Mavericks next fall, and I think he could contribute next season.
Another kid who may or may not be playing college hockey next season is Minnesota recruit Brandon Martell. I was really impressed with Martell today. His best asset is his excellent slap shot. Not only is it a heavy shot, but he's got a pretty quick release. He did score a goal off a nice one-timer. But I thought he also showed he could be capable of stepping up and playing college hockey next season. He didn't really take over the game, but he did a great job of playing smart, solid hockey and getting the puck off his stick quickly, which is the way he will have to play with the Gophers. He also showed a nice ability to block shots. I think Michigan Tech proved this season that if you can block shots well, you don't have to do a whole lot else to be successful in the WCHA. I think Martell could be a bit of a sleeper pick in this summer's NHL draft.
One RPI recruit, Chase Polacek, wasn't playing today. His past, and future teammate, Bryan Brutlag, who is also going to RPI, was playing, however. I've always liked the way Brutlag plays. He's a good skater and makes very nice, sharp passes. I could see him stepping into the RPI lineup right away, and slowly developing into an excellent player.
Chad Huttel recently committed to Minnesota-Duluth and will join the Bulldogs next season. I thought Huttel got off to a shaky start today. He was a little too aggressive and looked to be playing outside of his comfort zone. As the game went on, he settled down a little bit, and looked more like he did in the state tournament. I still think it could be rough for the Bulldogs if they have some injury problems and Huttel has to be counted on to contribute significantly next year.
Another Bulldog recruit, defenseman Scott Kishel has a lot of talent, but probably didn't play his best game. A couple times, especially early on, he got caught hanging onto the puck too long and ended turning the puck over. He'll play a year of juniors though, where he should get used to having make quicker decisions with the puck.
Recent Minnesota State recruit Joe Schiller also didn't do a ton to stand out in the time I saw. It looks like he has some potential, and will be playing junior hockey next season, where he should continue to develop.