Leader of the Pack…

Now that the Minnesota state boys hockey tournament is over, it means USHL and NAHL teams are going to be taking a look at some undrafted players.

There were some players everyone knew about while there were others who used the tournament to boost their stock and maybe increase their chances of playing junior hockey and beyond.

Here’s a look at 10 players who not only helped their teams but themselves:

-Christian Horn, forward, Benilde-St. Margaret’s: Horn really couldn’t have asked for a better last two weeks of the season. He scored six points in the section playoffs and six points in the state tournament helping the Red Knights win the Class 2A title. Horn is a former Omaha Lancers draft pick but isn’t on the team’s affiliate’s list. It means he’s eligible for the upcoming USHL Entry Draft. With what he did in the playoffs and the whole season scoring 70 points makes him a likeable option for a team needing a forward with skill, pace and goalscoring ability.

-Michael Bitzer, goaltender, Moorhead: If you’ve read this blog, you know we don’t ever mention Bitzer. OK. Slightly Chilled has been on Bitzer Watch since Thursday and as we’ve detailed, he has options. Bitzer, who won the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s best senior goaltender, signed a tender with Alexandria (NAHL) earlier in the year but it appears he could very much have a future in the USHL too. Bitzer said Sunday afternoon he’s talked with a few colleges but nothing has been offered. He’ll likely spend next year in juniors. Where? That’s anyone’s guess.

-Charlie Sampair, forward, Hill-Murray: Yeah, we had a hard time believing he wasn’t on any affiliate lists either. The Pioneers only have two players on USHL affiliates list (Blake Heinrich and Jake Guentzel – both with Sioux City) but that could certainly change. Sampair, a Mr. Hockey finalist, finished the year with 51 points and had a decent tournament. He had three points in three games but only one goal. But he did other things to really help his cause like using the body to deliver a hit along with being part of an impressive defense that stifled Moorhead and Maple Grove before falling apart against Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

-Sam Becker, defenseman, Hill-Murray: Let’s get this out of the way. If any player in Minnesota deserves some serious consideration it is Becker because he moved from forward to defense. In his first season he helped his team reach the state title game and made the all-tournament team. Becker was a project at Hill-Murray but he worked out being part of a defense which gave up five goals in five playoff games prior to the state title game.

-Terry Leabo, defenseman, Moorhead: This kid got the crap kicked out of him. Against Eagan, he took a puck to the neck and legs. Against Hill-Murray he had his chin split open and against Lakeville South, he stopped an empty net goal by diving and sacrificing his shins. Leabo blocked shots, went up against top-line forwards and still made it out OK even if he was the walking wounded. He like Bitzer signed a tender with Alexandria (NAHL), but don’t be surprised if he ends up somewhere else.

-Meirs Moore, defenseman, Duluth East: Lost in what was a tragic tournament for the Greyhounds was Moore. Moore has been a steady presence on the blueline with the offensive he can provide. He scored 47 points (13 goals and 34 assists) on what was a grossly talented team. East did win the consolation title and he could be the next name from East to make an impact. Moore is a junior so he has another year left but if selected by a USHL club, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

-Zach Lavalle, forward, Hill-Murray: Getting the sense Hill-Murray has some talent? Lavalle opened up with arguably the best first game of any player scoring four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in a domineering 5-2 win over Maple Grove. He only scored one more goal and that came in the 5-1 “title game” win for Benilde-St. Margaret’s, which stormed through the tournament. Lavalle got love on press row from quite a few people with how versatile he is and he still has a year left to grow. He’s a junior so don’t expect him to make the jump yet if he is taken by a USHL club.

-Eric Schurhamer, defenseman, St. Thomas Academy (Maine): Schurhamer’s a two-time state champ who was without question the best defenseman in Class 1A and maybe the whole state. He’s the only guy on this list committed to a school and has already stated he wants to be in the USHL next year. His sparkling regular season and state tournament surely helped him get notice and will more than likely be taken by a club in the upcoming draft.

-Wesley Iverson, forward, Breck: The talk, and rightly so, has been about his brother, Keegan, who could be playing in the WHL next season. Though Iverson did plenty this postseason to potentially pop up on someone’s radar. Aside from the semifinal loss against St. Thomas Academy, he grabbed at least one point in every game this post season. In fact, he scored 13 points in six games. Iverson has size and in the USHL, if a team can get a scorer with size, it goes a long way towards being a popular man.

-Conor Andrle, forward, Breck: He ripped this season apart with 79 points between the playoffs and the regular season. Andrle showed Breck was a multi-faceted threat which extended beyond Grant Opperman (Dartmouth). Given his consistency, one would think a team could take him in the mid-to-later rounds of the draft.

2 thoughts on “Leader of the Pack…

  1. junior hockey has RUINED hockey the last 10+ years. gone are the days of watching a player through high school and onto college right away. We as fans have no idea who these players are anymore and they usually come back from juniors and play as a 22-24 year old THUG on the ice case in point, und players.

    drop juniors and hockey would enjoy more viewers/fans,.

    • dallasguy,

      That’s probably the dumbest comment I’ve ever read on any hockey blog I’ve even been to. Congrats on that, I guess.

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