Tommy Vannelli of Minnetonka is the top-rated Minnesota high school player in the NHL Draft. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Hurley has been seen as a top-notch recruit since he burst onto the high school hockey scene in 2011-12 with 58 points as a sophomore for Edina. Teamed up with linemate Dylan Malmquist, the pair have sliced up the state, leading to a state title in 2013. A Notre Dame recruit, Hurley has been subject of attention from plenty of schools, media outlets, and now the NHL.
"Connor is quick," Edina coach Curt Giles told the Hockey Hub in December. "He’s deceptively strong. He’s stronger than he looks. He can do everything, he can pass the puck, he can shoot the puck and he can skate."
Soft hands, speed, and passing ability make Hurley a solid prospect. He dished out 32 assists last year and added on 20 goals.
Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque smiled when talking about facing Hurley in December.
“Him and the rest of the group of Edina Hornets,” LaRoque said. “They come at you in waves and certainly he’s a skilled player. I’d like to watch him – you don’t get a chance as a coach.”
Edina's Connor Hurley has an open-net opportunity. Photo by Brian Nelson
St. Louis continued its tradition of picking Minnesota high school players Sunday. T.J. Oshie from Warroad and David Backes from Spring Lake Park are already stars on the Blues, and now Minnetonka defenseman Tommy Vannelli looks to join them.
Vannelli is committed to the Gophers and is on the roster for the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team competing in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Under-18 Championship from April 18-28 in Sochi, Russia. He was a senior last season for the Skippers.
A natural born skater, Vannelli opens up the ice with his ability to move the puck and create offense. He plays a mature and measured game that helped the Skippers to a 19-7-1 record. To add to his accolades, Vannelli was a 2013 Mr. Hockey finalist and had 10 goals and 25 assists last year.
"It looks pretty effortless," Minnetonka coach Brian Urick told the Hockey Hub about Vanelli's skating in December. “He’s got a really smooth and long stride. He’s really patient. He doesn’t really seem to turn on his jets until he has to. I’d like to see him going a little more at full speed. You don’t see him use it that much because he kind of surveys the play. He slows the game down."
Guentzel helped the Pioneers to a storybook trip to the state championship game in the 2011-12 season. He was a catalyst offensively for the skilled Hill-Murray squad that carved up opposing forces with its scoring. Passing around to teammates Zach LaValle, Charlie Sampair, and Conrad Sampair, he had a whopping 52 assists as a junior and his 23 goals gave him 75 points that year.
His 5-foot-9 and 153 lbs frame is a a potential drawback, but his skill-oriented game takes some of the worry away from his size and lack of physicality.
"He’s got great hands, great tools. He’s really a competitor,”Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said about Guentzel in 2012. “I’d want to be his line because he’s gonna find ya. He’s got good instincts and good vision for the game and he’s just a competitor. He’s a junior but he’s one of our leaders and a go-to-guy and he handles it pretty well.”
Hill-Murray's Jake Guentzel skates past Moorhead's Tony Uglem. Photo by Helen Nelson
Fasching stood 6-foot-2 and weighed close to 200 pounds as a high schooler at Apple Valley, and he helped the Eagles reach the state tournament in 2010 and get to the section finals in 2011.
Fasching, a University of Minnesota recruit, scored 18 goals and added 32 assists as a sophomore follow-up to a brilliant 42-point (24 goals, 18 assists) freshman season.
Poolman didn't garner statewide attention during his career at East Grand Forks, but his long reach and physical style made him exceedingly hard to beat.
Poolman scored five goals and added 17 assists as a senior for the Green Wave, and the University of North Dakota recruit drew a lot of attention from pro scouts last season while playing for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.
The puck-rushing defenseman had a brilliant junior season at Burnsville in 2012-13, as he scored nine goals and added 22 assists in 28 games to help the Blaze reached the section finals before losing to eventual state Class 2A champion Edina.
Kivihalme, also a standout in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last fall, is the son of Burnsville coach Janne Kivihalme. Teemu has committed to play at Colorado College.
Brodzinski scored 16 goals and added 20 assists as a junior at Blaine during the 2011-12 season.
The University of Minnesota recruit had 14 goals and 17 assists in 30 games in 2010-11 as the Bengals reached the state tournament.
One of the hardest hitting players to come through the high school ranks in recent history, the former Hill-Murray star was a beast during the 2012 state tournament when he flattened everything that moved (except his teammates, of course).
Henrich, who has committed to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, can pitch in offensively, too. He scored 11 goals and added 24 assists for the Pioneers in 2011-12 when they reached the state Class 2A title game.
One of the greatest goal scorers in state history, Benilde-St. Margaret's Besse met expectations that were in the stratosphere as a senior by scoring 48 goals while playing one of the state's toughest schedules.
Besse etched his name in the state's history books, and drew nationwide attention, by scoring all five of the Red Knights' goals -- three of them shorthanded -- in a 5-1 state title game victory over Hill-Murray in 2012.
Brodzinski, the older brother of fellow fifth-round pick Michael Brodzinski, had a monster senior season at Blaine in 2010-11 when he scored 31 goals and added 29 assists for the Bengals in their run to the state Class 2A tournament.
He had an outstanding freshman season at St. Cloud State last winter, racking up 22 goals and 11 assists as the Huskies reached the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
Ausmus scored four goals and added eight assists as a sophmore at East Grand Forks in 2010-11, but his offensive contributions were merely a bonus considering his shutdown defensive play.
Ausmus plays a physical style and has a nasty streak. He's committed to play at the University of North Dakota.
It seems as though Grand Rapids' Peterson has been terrorizing opposing defenses for ever, but he was just a junior last season when he scored 27 goals and added 35 assists for the Thunderhawks as they reached the finals of the Section 7AA playoffs.
Peterson has a 6-foot-2 frame and a compete level that is off the charts. He has yet to committ to a Division I program.
The Mr. Hockey finalist from Tartan with exceptional speed was a standout in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last fall, and he carried that momentum into the high school season as he scored 32 goals and added 27 assists.
Jackson, who has committed to play at Michigan Tech, scored a hat trick in Tartan's 6-5 loss to Roseville in the Section 5 playoffs.
What: 51st NHL Entry Draft
When: Sunday, June 30, starting at 2 p.m.
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
TV: NBC Sports Network
Entering the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey, the list of high school hockey prospects from Minnesota is as big as always. Last year, the early part of the draft had an northern flavor as Dom Toninato from Duluth East and Jake Bischoff from Grand Rapids were the first players off the board who completed their senior season as high school players. Brady Skjei who spent time at Lakeville North was taken in the first round with the 28 pick.
This year the Lake Conference should be in the spotlight. Minnetonka's Tommy Vannelli and Edina's Connor Hurley are rated the 44th and 45th best prospects respectively in North America according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. Former Hill-Murray stars Jake Guentzel and Blake Heinrich are back-to-back with the 80th and 81th rankings as well.
This page will be updated later in the day with analysis, scouting, and more.
NHL Prospect Ranking: 45th
Born: September 15, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 44th
Born: January 26, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 80th
Born: October 6, 1994
NHL Prospect Ranking: 70th
Position: Right Wing
Born: July 28, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 64th
Born: June 7, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 72nd
Born: February 17, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 124th
Position: Right Wing
Born: July 14, 1994
NHL Prospect Ranking: 142nd
Born: July 19, 1993
NHL Prospect Ranking: 148th
Born: April 22, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 77th
Born: June 20, 1995
NHL Prospect Ranking: 170th
Born: December 5, 1994
|Connor Hurley||Edina||Center||2||38||Buffalo||Hurley was easily one of the best players in the state last year, leading the Hornets to a state title. He had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) as a junior.|
|Tommy Vannelli||Minnetonka||Defense||2||47||St. Louis||The best high school defenseman from Minnesota available to be drafted. A great player with a bright future.|
|Jake Guentzel*||Hill-Murray||Forward||3||77||Pittsburgh||A speedy, shifty player with nearly unrivaled passing ability.|
|Hudson Fasching*||Apple Valley||Right Wing||4||118||Los Angeles||The 6-2, 214-pound Fasching has the size and scoring talent NHL teams covet.|
|Tucker Poolman||East Grand Forks||Defense||5||127||Winnipeg||Big and strong, Poolman always has been rock steady in the defensive end and is still honing his offensive skills.|
|Teemu Kivihalme||Burnsville||Defense||5||140||Nashville||Puck-rushing style made him a threat to score almost every shift.|
|Michael Brodzinski*||Blaine||Defense||5||141||San Jose||Another defenseman with strong skating skills and a polished offensive game.|
|Blake Heinrich*||Hill-Murray||Defense||5||144||Washington||Had a memorable state tournament in 2012 with his numerous "pancake" hits.|
|Grant Besse||Benilde-St. Margaret's||Right Wing||5||147||Anaheim||One of the greatest scorers in Minnesota high school history, he scored all five goals for the Red Knights in their 5-1 2012 state title game win over Hill-Murray.|
|Jonny Brodzinski||Blaine||Center||5||148||Los Angeles||The St. Cloud State star will no doubt hear about being taken seven picks after his younger brother Michael Brodzinski.|
|Gage Ausmus*||East Grand Forks||Defense||5||151||San Jose||Great skater not afraid to play a physical style, Ausmus scored four goals and added eight assists as a sophomore at East Grand Forks in 2010-11.|
|Avery Peterson||Grand Rapids||Center||6||167||Minnesota||Peterson has good size (6-2, 194 pounds) and scoring ability, but his competitiveness and clutch play set him apart as the Thunderhawks' unquestioned go-to guy.|
|Jake Jackson||Tartan||Center||7||201||San Jose||Easily one of the state's fastest players last season, Jackson has a laser shot to go with all that speed.|
*Denotes player did not complete senior year of high school in Minnesota
|70||Hudson Fasching||RW||Apple Valley|
|77||Avery Peterson||Center||Grand Rapids|
|106||Grant Besse||RW||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|148||Gage Ausmus||Def.||East Grand Forks|
|203||Justin Kloos||Center||Lakeville South|
|226||Christopher Forney||Def.||Thief River Falls|