AA Preseason Rankings 2017-2018

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AA Preseason Rankings 2017-2018

Post by karl(east) » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:18 pm

Welcome to my tenth season of AA rankings! Yikes, I’m getting old. As usual, the first in-season re-rack will come after the first full week, so we’ll start regular Sunday rankings on December 3. The schedule lists all of a team’s games before that point. In the meantime, here are your preseason rankings:

1. Edina
-The Hornets look to return to glory after a two-year State Tournament hiatus. Sam Walker is the Mr. Hockey frontrunner, and with Demetrios Koumontzis (a candidate in his own right), Lewis Crosby, and Jett Jungels as sidekicks, this could be the most potent Hornet offense in recent memory, which is saying something. What really separates this group from the other four top programs with deep returning casts, though, is the high-end potential of its defense. While still young, it’s hard to argue with Ben Brinkman, Jake Boltmann, Matt Vorlicky, and Mason Reiners as a top four. Edina depth is what it is, too; the small holes one can poke in this team revolve around recent history in big games (especially against Wayzata), forward size, and perhaps goaltending. As usual, the tournament in Wayzata gives a good early look, including the possibility of the first of several 6AA final previews.
Schedue: Wayzata Turkey Trot—11/24 vs. #8 Holy Family, 11/25 vs. #11 Wayzata/#14 Maple Grove, 11/28 at St. Louis Park, 12/2 vs. Roseau

2. Duluth East
-The Greyhounds return practically everyone from a team that lost in double overtime to the eventual state champion a year ago, and their forward depth is arguably the best in the state. The top line of Garrett Worth, Ryder Donovan, and Ian Mageau (once healthy) should put up big numbers, and Lukan Hanson appears a capable new full-timer in goal. Keys include their top-end forwards producing to their fullest potential and a mobile defense taking care of business in its own end. Two ranked opponents kick things off on the first weekend in December.
Schedule: 12/1 at #10 White Bear Lake, 12/2 vs. #11 Wayzata

3. Moorhead
-Lots of reason for optimism in Spudville, as last season’s runners-up bring back their explosive top line, respectable forward depth, their goaltender, and Ethan Frisch to patrol the blue line. They may not run quite as deep as the other top five teams, but that’s hardly a weakness either. They also have the State experience some of the others don’t after last season, though it’s also worth noting that their run to the state title game wasn’t exactly the most difficult road ever taken there. The early contest with St. Thomas will help set the tone, and they have some important section games after that.
Schedule: YHH Opener—11/24 vs. Lakeville North, 11/25 vs. #4 St. Thomas Academy; 11/18 vs. Brainerd, 12/2 at Buffalo

4. St. Thomas Academy
-This could rival the 2015 team as the Cadets’ best since their jump to AA, as they boast a loaded group of forwards including the Christy brothers, Payton Matsui, and Brendan McFadden, plus a capable defense. Once again, they have the most favorable section among the top teams, too. The biggest hang-up here? This program’s recent track record, which has ended in upsets of varying degrees every year since they opted up. With two other top five teams on their schedule in the YHH Opener, they can make an immediate impression, and Eastview is one of their most serious rivals, such as it is, for the 3AA crown.
Schedule: YHH Opener—11/24 vs. #5 Minnetonka, 11/25 vs. #3 Moorhead; 11/29 at Eastview, 12/2 vs. Farmington

5. Minnetonka
-As with the other top five teams, the Skippers return a very deep cast, and a number of those players have much higher ceilings than they showed a year ago. There were flashes of dominance last season, but with a new head coach and an up-and-down recent history, they start toward the back of this pack of top teams. They start out with a bang against St. Thomas, and the early contest with Prior Lake will have some section implications, too.
Schedule: YHH Opener—11/24 vs. #4 St. Thomas Academy, 11/25 vs. Lakeville North; 12/2 vs. Prior Lake

6. Eden Prairie
-Life will be different for the Eagles in the post-Casey era, but Jack Jensen, Rhode Island import Chris Konin, and a couple of other interesting pieces should ensure the offense remains potent. With their program depth and usually reliable defensive play, they climb to the top of a field that is very open after the big five. They open later than most, and there are enough unknowns that a season-opener against Cretin is worth some attention.
Schedule: 12/2 vs. Cretin-Derham Hall

7. Centennial
-With Lucas McGregor leading the offense, a host of returning defensemen, and a veteran goaltender, the pieces are in place for Centennial to sneak into the conversation among the top teams in the state. They’ll be tight in back, in keeping with the Cougar style, and Hayden Brickner and Carter Wagner give them some added scoring punch. They’re the favorite in 5AA, and if they can get some scoring depth, they could do some additional damage. They open with a bubble team before diving into conference play.
Schedule: 12/1 vs. Roseau, 12/2 vs. Armstrong-Cooper

8. Holy Family
-No team had more offseason intrigue than the Fire, who had a revolving door of player arrivals and departures. The end result of all that movement is a defensive corps sapped of some of its highest-end talent but still plenty deep and reliable, and an offense that is thinner than most top ten teams but has two serious weapons in Ben Almquist and Garrett Pinoniemi. The million dollar question will be whether they can develop a supporting cast, as 2AA will not be forgiving to a one-line team. We’ll get an early idea of where the new-look Fire stands in the Turkey Trot, where they can make an immediate impression against the top team in the state.
Schedule: Wayzata Turkey Trot—11/24 vs. #1 Edina, 11/25 vs. #14 Maple Grove/#11 Wayzata; 11/28 at Litchfield, 12/2 at Orono

9. Hill-Murray
-Hill has found a fairly regular home in this part of the rankings recently. The forward depth is not what it was when they were contending for state championships earlier in the decade, but they continue to churn out the quality defensemen that have been the staple of this program over the past decade, and they’ve got Ben Helgeson to carry the load. While White Bear Lake may have more immediate talent in the 4AA race, Hill has quietly loaded up a lot of young prospects in the East Metro, and this program is the one that knows how to get it done come playoff time. As has become the norm, they open with Burnsville.
Schedule: 11/28 at Burnsville

10. White Bear Lake
-The Bears are an interesting team. They return a very productive all-senior top line from a season ago, but little of note beyond that, and add in a state championship bantam crew. If they can get those pieces to mesh and hold up on the back end, a Tourney berth is well within striking distance. A couple of visits from northern contenders will provide the early barometer.
Schedule: 11/25 vs. Roseville, 11/28 vs. #13 Cloquet, 12/1 vs. #2 Duluth East

11. Wayzata
-This is one of the toughest teams to rank. On paper Griffin Ness and Colin Schmidt are an excellent one-two punch, but Pat O’Leary’s Trojan teams aren’t exactly designed to ride front-line forward talent. As usual, the depth is a strength, but Grant Anderson’s departure leaves the defense lacking the star of the caliber this team has relied on in the past couple years. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a sub-.500 regular season again, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them looking competitive at the X again, either. This preseason ranking splits the difference, so we’ll adjust accordingly. As usual, the early schedule is busy and challenging.
Schedule: Wayzata Turkey Trot—11/24 vs. #14 Maple Grove, 11/25 vs. #1 Edina/#8 Holy Family; 12/1 at Hermantown, 12/2 at #2 Duluth East

12. Elk River
-Don’t count out the Elks: they lost some very talented players off of last season’s squad, but the program depth is such that they don’t have far to fall, and they have a respectable crew of returners at both forward and defense. Jack Perbix will be one of the state’s top forwards, and there are a few young guns coming up who will slide in beside him and help fill the void. Goaltending, once again, is a question mark, as is the eternal question of performance in the playoffs. They start out with some of the easier Northwest Suburban competition.
Schedule: 11/30 at Coon Rapids, 12/2 vs. Spring Lake Park

13. Cloquet
-After making strides toward contention a year ago, the Lumberjacks bring back nearly all their key players and add another strong bantam crop. They don’t quite have the veteran front-end talent of an East or an Elk River, but Landon Langenbrunner should prove his worth this season, and there’s some decent talent on the blue line, too. Goaltending and the aftermath of the offseason coaching switch are question marks here. An early game with White Bear Lake will give them a chance to prove they belong this high, and they can’t take their other early opponents for granted, either.
Schedule: 11/25 vs. Mounds View, 11/28 at #10 White Bear Lake, 12/2 vs. Bloomington Jefferson

14. Maple Grove
-The defending 5AA champs suffered some heavy losses to graduation. Still, there’s some front-end talent on the offense, and they’ve got one of the state’s better goaltending prospects in Ethan Haider. With the deepest program in the section and a frontrunner who is good but beatable, a repeat is within reach. They’re the lowest-ranked team of the four in the season-opening challenge in Wayzata, so any positive results should reflect well on them.
Schedule: Wayzata Turkey Trot—11/24 vs. #11 Wayzata, 11/25 vs. #8 Holy Family/#1 Edina; 11/30 vs. Totino-Grace, 12/2 at Champlin Park

15. Blaine
-As usual, the Bengals have themselves a weapon named Brodzinski, and Will Hillman gives them a solid top line pairing. That tandem can keep pace with anyone’s in 5AA; the questions here come with the supporting cast, which won’t have much in the way of experience. Like many Northwest Suburban teams, their early conference schedule gives them some warm-ups before the real tests start.
Schedule: 11/30 at Armstrong/Cooper, 12/2 vs. Irondale

The Next Ten

Cretin-Derham Hall
-The Raiders return a healthy core from last season’s team, including sophomore star Matt Gleason, and could sneak up on a few people this season. They have a goaltending hole to fill, and will need some big contributions from their depth players to hang with the west metro mega-schools in their section, but stranger things have happened—as this very team proved two seasons ago when it made a section final. A lot of their bigger tests are in December, and they get going right away with Eden Prairie.

Duluth Marshall
-The Hilltoppers’ top five, featuring Levi Stauber, Willy Stauber, and George Grannis, can hang with the others in 7AA, and makes them an upset threat. The questions start beyond that, but the depth players are at least experienced, and last season showed us that a top-flight top unit can take a team a long way. Goaltending may be the Achilles’ heel. They have a busy early schedule, but Benilde is the only remotely challenging opponent among their first five.

Lakeville North
-The days of Panther domination have come and gone, but this group has a couple of talents worth watching in Blake Brandt and Garrett Daly, and there have been just enough reinforcements to push them toward the top of a weak section. There are enough holes here that they’re no sure bet, though. Moorhead and Minnetonka in the YHH Opener are an awfully tough opening assignment.

-The Warriors bring back a lot from last season’s solid 8AA competitor, and while they don’t have the talent of most of the top 15 teams, they seem like a group that could be a real thorn in someone’s side. The section tests start right away, with visits to Moorhead and Bemidji in the first full week of the season.

Prior Lake
-The Lakers lost a lot of talent, leaving Jackson Jutting in search of a supporting cast. The program has enough depth to keep them somewhere vaguely in the hunt, but they’re more likely to be battling Chaska for a home game than disrupting the top three seeds in 2AA. Their first two are big, as they play conference foe Lakeville South and section frontrunner Minnetonka.

Lakeville South
-The defending 1AA champs would’ve been favorites to repeat if Isaiah DiLaura had returned. Without him, their talent is respectable, but isn’t going to separate them from other teams ranked in this area. The section is weak enough that they could still go back to State, but making the semis again would be a much taller order. Early games against Prior Lake, up-and-coming Buffalo, and Hermantown will tell us more.

-Most everyone is back from a group that has had some quality youth teams come through in recent years, but needs to take that next step to prove it’s a contender in a crowded section. Their top two forwards and Elite League goaltender are still just juniors, so we’ll see if they can break through this season or if the timeline is more for 2019. They’ll get some warm-ups against the underbelly of the Northwest Suburban.

-The bad news: The Ponies lost about as much talent as is possible to lose off of a team to graduation. The good news: the incoming youth class is very, very good, and deep programs that graduate a ton of seniors usually have a few players who were buried on JV step up and become serviceable varsity contributors. If the kids grow up they could contend, though the early going could be rough. It’s probably not a bad thing that they don’t play their first game until December 5.

-There are some interesting pieces here with Aaron Huglen and Alex Verbout, and this team did make a section final a season ago. As has been the case in recent years, they’ll have to prove they have the depth to line up with the Moorheads of the world. An early road trip to the metro to face Centennial and Edina will give them the chance to do that.

Bloomington Jefferson
-The talent isn’t overwhelming here, but the Jaguars do return a lot of people from a section finalist last season, and are probably the second-best team on paper in 3AA. They face Eastview in an important section game right off the bat, and Cloquet gives them a chance to do something against a ranked opponent, too.

18 Lakeville North
21 Lakeville South
-Remember the old days when 1AA’s state entrant would be a Lakeville team flirting with .500? Well, I’m afraid we may be headed back to that, at least for this season. Neither Lakeville overwhelms, but until someone further south shows something, I don’t see any reason to expect an upset, either. Of the rest, Rochester Century returns enough to perhaps claim a 3-seed, and Farmington, Owatonna, and Rochester John Marshall will be somewhere in the jumble, too.

5 Minnetonka
6 Eden Prairie
8 Holy Family
20 Prior Lake
-Holy Family lost enough in the offseason that Minnetonka can claim a preseason favorite title here, but this race is deep and good, as usual. Uncertainties linger as to how quickly Eden Prairie can retool, how high Chaska can rise with this talented but still very young group, and whether Prior Lake has enough in the tank beyond Jackson Jutting to stay a high seed. Holy Family’s lack of section games could once again complicate seeding.

4 St. Thomas Academy
25 Bloomington Jefferson
-As has become the norm, it’s the Cadets, then all the rest. Jefferson doesn’t have the front-end talent to make a major leap, but is fairly deep and slots in at #2. Eastview has a couple of nice parts that should keep the Lightning relevant, and Rosemount and Eagan may be capable of edging their way upward, but it will likely be the usual pile-up where no one really overwhelms anyone else other than St. Thomas. We’ll see if anyone can climb into contention.

9 Hill-Murray
10 White Bear Lake
23 Stillwater
Mounds View
-It’s going to be an interesting year here, with Hill-Murray holding in its good-but-not-great pattern of the past few seasons, Stillwater in total reload mode, and White Bear trying to avoid doing White Bear things with a good opportunity to break through. With good young talent moving up the pipeline for all three of those programs, the future looks bright in this section, but serious state contention from any of them may be a year away. Mounds View has some respectable pieces and is next in line should anyone falter.

7 Centennial
14 Maple Grove
15 Blaine
-This one looks like the now-familiar three-team race between Centennial, Maple Grove, and Blaine. It seems like the favorite among that bunch never wins this section, so I may be dooming Centennial by handing the Cougars frontrunner status; even so, grabbing that top seed is always a plus when it’s a three-way race. As usual, Northwest Suburban Conference play gives each of those three two meetings with the other two, and that will be central to the final seeding. Pickings are pretty thin beyond the top three.

1 Edina
11 Wayzata
16 Cretin-Derham Hall
St. Louis Park
Benilde-St. Margaret’s
-This section has developed an interesting dynamic, with Edina the favorite and Wayzata with the recent track record and within striking distance. We can’t assume those two will be the ones at Mariucci, either: Cretin and St. Louis Park return nice groups, and Blake and Benilde have some young talent that could make strides if it all comes together. Edina, however, has the talent to overwhelm here, and we’ll see if they do just that or settle back into a cat-and-mouse game with Wayzata in their regular season contests, thereby leaving the door open again.

2 Duluth East
12 Elk River
13 Cloquet
17 Duluth Marshall
22 Andover
-East may be the clear favorite, but the next five all may be capable of disrupting things: Elk River and Cloquet can’t quite match the Hounds’ combination of talent and depth but aren’t that far behind, Marshall has the higher-end talent to pull an upset, and Andover is capable of joining the party, too. Despite heavy losses, the defending state champs also lurk as a spoiler with Holum in net; assuming East is #1, grabbing the 2-seed to avoid a tough quarterfinal could give someone a nice advantage here. The section’s decision to adopt QRF as a seeding method changes some of the dynamics as well.

3 Moorhead
19 Brainerd
24 Roseau
St. Michael-Albertville
-As in 7AA, the frontrunner is obvious, and the field beyond that is so crowded that grabbing a 2-seed to avoid a tougher quarterfinal could be important. Bemidji still has a more than capable goaltender and a couple of other pieces, while Buffalo will be young but has some front-end talent coming up. Roseau has a couple skilled players who can make an impression, Brainerd is deep, and St. Michael-Albertville is experienced and has a couple of pieces that will keep them in the hunt for a high seed, too. It’s plenty deep with quality, but someone will need to prove they can compete with the high-flying Spuds.
Last edited by karl(east) on Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by WestMetro » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:53 pm

Excellent choices and commentary as usual!

I can’t help but notice 😀 that teams in your top 15 as a group are the same as what I posted a week ago in the different thread, adjusted for dropping Grand Rapids out and adding Hill in after Blake’s announcement ( West Metro hints?)

Glad to see someone is on the Blaine bandwagon besides me

A little surprised Chaska getting no love beyond top 15 . Betting now that Snugs will pull off some upsets along the way and they will end up 4 seed

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Post by green4 » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:44 pm

When was the last time a defending state champ team dropped off this far?

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Post by karl(east) » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:37 pm

green4 wrote:When was the last time a defending state champ team dropped off this far?
Never since I've been doing this, though I think 2001 Blaine was pretty bad the year after they won the title and probably would have qualified. For the record, Rapids was at #15 before McLaughlin left. I'm not sure one player has ever, or ever could have, had this much of an impact (10+ spots) since I've been doing rankings.

WestMetro, most of this was done a few weeks ago, but I guess great minds think alike. :wink: Chaska was a tough one...they were on the short list of watch teams beyond the top 25, but I deleted that when the list started getting really long and I thought it was getting an "everyone gets a medal!" feeling to it. What held me back most was their PS2 rating from last year...they have a long way to climb to be a top 25 AA team. Possible, given the talent, but we'll have to see.

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Post by goldy313 » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:14 am

Century may put up a pretty gaudy record against a largely class A schedule.... but aside from 2 games against Farmington and White Bear will be largely untested against AA teams. Owatonna may have the best chance for a non metro team to reach the 1AA section final since 2009.

Honestly at this point I think the section is South's to lose. North has, on paper, been the best team the last 2 years but has been uncompetitive in the section final both those years while looking completely uninterested in playing that game. The Big Nine teams struggle to keep the games against the South Suburban teams out of running time, let alone within 10 goals.

I have no idea how Hastings fits into the section. Maybe they have a shot

Maybe in the next cycle Northfield will be in 1AA.....

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Post by grindiangrad-80 » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:45 am

green4 wrote:When was the last time a defending state champ team dropped off this far?
I was wondering the same thing. I am guessing never in my life. I am sure they will take a few lumps this year with the schedule they play but I'm confident they will be a much improved team by the end of the year.

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Post by BodyShots » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:44 am

"The section’s decision to adopt QRF as a seeding method changes some of the dynamics as well."

My favorite line of the entire post. The "dynamics" of the mid meeting bathroom breaks for Mikey and the boys will not impact the seeding's anymore!!!! :P

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Post by LASERBLUE135 » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:58 pm

Grand Rapids will be ranked. Winning is like a drug. It gets addicting. Even if the talent falls I think they have pride. I think you should give them the benefit of the doubt and let them fall if they start losing.

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Post by alcloseshaver » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:30 pm

BodyShots wrote:"The section’s decision to adopt QRF as a seeding method changes some of the dynamics as well."

My favorite line of the entire post. The "dynamics" of the mid meeting bathroom breaks for Mikey and the boys will not impact the seeding's anymore!!!! :P
Classic line agreed, with section record only being part of the formula may be less urgency to schedule games against section foes. Will need to get the class A opponents off the schedule also.

Slap Shot
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Post by Slap Shot » Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:54 pm

I have I missed an update from you good sir?

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Post by karl(east) » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:22 pm

Slap Shot wrote:I have I missed an update from you good sir?
Nope, I never do rankings after that first weekend since half the teams haven't played yet. First update will be Sunday, then every week after that.

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Post by kniven » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:16 pm

Wow! Very impressed with the Bears early in the season! Very impressive boys from White Bear Lake against 218 hockey early in the season. We'll see you up here in 218 next year.....

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Post by thespellchecker » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:18 pm

kniven wrote:Wow! Very impressed with the Bears early in the season! Very impressive boys from White Bear Lake against 218 hockey early in the season. We'll see you up here in 218 next year.....
coaching the difference in this tie, coaching. :idea: :idea: :idea: :idea:
8-TIME weekly & 2-Time Season Pick Em Champ

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