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Prospect Need to Know: Minnesota glory, NCAA madness

The state tournament is done, while the Frozen Four is still looking for dancers. Learn about the kids making noise around the prospect world

One of the best events in hockey, the Minnesota State High School tournament, has come to a close for another year. The Minnetonka Skippers (Jake Gardiner’s alma mater) won the boy’s big school bracket, taking the title for the first time in school history. Tampa Bay Lightning pick Sammy Walker of Edina was named Mr. Hockey as the state’s most outstanding senior. Meanwhile, NCAA conference tournaments are finishing up and every school is watching their Pairwise ranking for the Frozen Four, just in case an automatic bid is out of reach. With all that mind, let’s take a look at some of the names making noise in the prospect world right now.

Bobby Brink, C, Minnetonka Skippers (Minn. HS) – Remember Brink’s name. The Denver commit isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2019, but he’s got a lot of skill in his game. The Skippers pivot had seven points in three tournament games, including two in the 5-2 clincher against Duluth East. Sioux City has his USHL rights. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Ryan Donato, C, Harvard Crimson (ECAC) – This kid’s gotta turn pro after this season, right? Donato is a junior, so he could return, but his slick hands and finishing skills are just begging to be used at the next level. The Boston Bruins pick was named conference player of the week with eight points in four games (including a hat trick) and his Crimson are still alive in the ECAC tournament – but need to win it all for a Frozen Four berth. NHL arrival: 2018-19

Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) – A two-way defenseman with great offensive upside, Sandin has been one of many reasons the Hounds have been nearly unstoppable this season. The Swedish rookie and 2018 draft prospect has five points in his past four games and has been nearly a point-per-gamer since coming over from Rogle in late October. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Jack Hughes, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL) – Hughes just broke the NTDP record for points by an under-17 player with 87, passing Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller in the process. The fact Hughes has done a lot of his damage with the under-18 squad makes his season all the more impressive. High skill, high speed and great smarts make him the top prospect for the 2019 draft right now. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) – While Hughes is wrecking the USHL, Lafreniere has been lighting up the ‘Q,’ putting together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in modern times. The 2020 draft prospect marries talent with drive and has 42 goals on the season. Only seven of those came on the power play – the rest were even strength. NHL arrival: 2020-21

Tomas Vomacka, G, Lincoln Stars (USHL) – The Stars are getting hot at the right time, blasting past Sioux City for the final playoff spot in the West. Vomacka has been a big part of that run, winning his past seven and bumping his save percentage up to .906. The big Nashville Predators pick is committed to UConn. NHL arrival: 2022-23

Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Swe.) – One of the top European forwards available in the draft this summer, Olofsson can add the Golden Cage award (or “Guldgallret”) to his resume. That goes to the best junior-aged player in the Allsvenskan and with 21 points in 43 games, he earned it. Olofsson is a smooth skater with size, skill and a lot of potential. NHL arrival: 2020-21

Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – I’ve probably slept on Lind a little this year because a lot of other Vancouver Canucks picks have been monsters, but 91 points in 56 games is pretty hot. Lind is turning into a well-rounded player with skill and his chemistry with 2018 draft prospect Kyle Topping has been excellent. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Rudolfs Balcers, LW, San Jose Barracuda (AHL) – The San Jose Sharks are high on Balcers thanks to his creative game and slick skating prowess. As a rookie pro in the AHL, he’s done well with the Barracuda and has five points in his past four outings. The Latvian national still needs to get stronger, but he has taken a big step forward this season. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Christian Wolanin, D, University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (NCHC) – The Hawks are pushing their way into the Frozen Four picture and a win over top-ranked St. Cloud State in the conference semifinal would really help. Wolanin has been big down the stretch, running a four-game point streak from the blueline and attracting a lot of attention from Ottawa Senators fans. He’s a junior, but could come out this summer. NHL arrival: 2019-20



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