#NHLDraft2013: Minnesota High School Hockey Part II: The Sleepers

We've covered the main figures of the local hockey scene; the kids who are expected to not just get drafted, but drafted with conceivable top-90 picks. However, where scouts make their money, and where teams have praise heaped upon them, are with the later round picks. Picks used on players who have all the tools but don't have the size, or skating, or whatever it may be that keeps them from being right up there with the Headliners.

And just as Minnesota's got star quality players this year, the State also has a good number of players who definitely could be slipping on an NHL sweater.

(MN Hockey Hub)

Mason Bergh, Center
Eden Prairie HS 
6'1" 165 Pounds 3/6/1995

Bergh sits atop of the list for a number of reasons; there may not be a player in my region that I've seen play with more dogged determination. Every shift is an honest effort, and played with an urgency like its Game 7; he'll dive to poke pucks to teammates or out of the defensive zone, drop down to block shots, finish his checks, crash the net, fearlessly go into corners after pucks and come out of the scrums with it. Its not just that alone; Bergh has great hockey sense and hands, so he can play any way you want- a skating-based skill game, or a grind it out, board battle type of game. He's very reminiscient of Kyle Rau in the way he plays; its do or die. Bergh joined Waterloo for a weekend after the Elite League ended, and reportedly impressed.
Now, the knock on Bergh (who is a great kid from what I've been told) is his overall lack of strength; he isn't very sturdy on his skates and doesn't create much power in his stride, but it doesn't deter him from hustling to keep up with the play or attack with a head of steam. He'll gain strength as he matures- next season he'll suit up for the Chicago Steel in the USHL; but what gets scouts buzzing about him is how he competes and fights and succeeds despite his lack of strength- so just how good will he be once he gets to be as strong as everyone else, playing with the same urgency?


Jake Jackson, Wing
12/5/1994 5'11" 185 Pounds

An effortless skater, speed is the name of Jackson's game. He uses it to create offensively, to disrupt things in the neutral zone, and to be a legitimate shorthanded threat on the penalty kill. Recently taken in the first round by Sioux City in the USHL Entry Draft, Jackson had previously joined Bergh for a weekend in Waterloo and was quote "just flying around the ice", as told to me by a scout in attendance. He possesses a very good set of hands; he's got a great release on his shot and the ability to make finesse passes at high speeds.
What's really struck me as a notable improvement in Jackson's game isn't necessarily one of his tools; its that he "gets it"; he plays with full engagement and with a desire to win every battle. This is huge for a somewhat undersized player. Jackson's skating ability is a blessing for him; it will allow him to explore being a go-to offensive player, but his strong defensive ability also means that he can also have a future as a key checker and ace penalty-killer if he can't find or sustain that goal scoring groove- he committed to Michigan Tech so he could be a Top-6 offensive player there, as opposed to just a checker elsewhere; but his two-way game will be his ticket moving forward.

Zach Glienke, Wing
Eagan HS
6'3" 195 Pounds 12/2/1994

The University of Maine commit is as toolsy as they come; he's got the size, the skating ability, the hands, and the head for the game. Unfortunately he missed some time in the Fall after blocking a shot, he dominated during the High School season. While he's got great size, he will still need to improve how he uses it; its easy to play a skill game at the High School level, but Glienke will have to learn to go to the dirty areas and absorb the abuse that comes with it.
It shouldn't take much for him to be effective though; his long reach makes it hard for defenders to strip the puck from him, and that extra second of possession allows him to see the ice and hit teammates with crisp passes. He owns a bullet of a shot, making him a duel threat. His physical game is somewhat intermittent; I've seen games where he's finishing his checks, and others where there is nary a bump- he could stand to develop a bit of a mean streak, and maybe play with more urgency all around.
It's my belief that Columbus is heavily interested in Glienke, who has signed his letter of intent and will be playing with former Eagan teammate Will Merchant in Orono this Fall.

(Sioux City Journal)
Neal Pionk, Defense
Hermantown HS/Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
5'11" 175 Pounds 7/29/1995

Its very hard to not respect the way Pionk plays the game; across the board he is so solid and can pretty much do it all, but there isn't an aspect that will blow you away. A solid skater, he can retrieve and skate the puck up the ice; but I've seen him operate in the offensive zone and make quick lateral movements to catch defenders by surprise and create his own shot. Defensively he is able to play a shutdown role and frustrate opponents by essentially smothering whatever space they think they have. Occasionally the "wires will cross" and he'll get recklessly physical, but it may be an indication of just how competitive he is as a person.
Pionk joined Sioux City after Hermantown's season ended, and I was able to see how his game translated to the USHL level. The UMD commit may not get drafted this year, but he should be on the radar for next year, and if not then, should be a viable NCAA free agent signing toward the end of his college career.

That wraps up the High School portion of our Draft Coverage; we'll start diving into the USHL next.

1 comment:

  1. These were all great reads. Fantastic stuff, keep up the good work.