Lleyton Roed followed a strong Upper Midwest High School Elite League season last fall by leading White Bear Lake with 23 goals last winter. Photo by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com
We’ve gone three weeks (seems like three months, doesn't it?) since the state tournament came to another thrill-filled finish, which begs the question — is it too late for our too early 2020-21 predictions?
Late or not, since stay-at-home time is abundant these days, we decided to take a deep dive into the top of Class 2A. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll count down our top 25 big-school teams for next season, starting today with White Bear Lake.
2019-20 Record: 18-9-1
Playoffs: Lost 3-2 to Hill-Murray in Section 4AA championship
Seniors lost: 12
Goals for: 117
Goals lost: 84 | Goals returning: 33
Goals against: 67
Goalie minutes lost: 1,439:39 | Goalie minutes returning: 0
Power-play percentage: 23.2
Penalty-kill percentage: 87.6
There are a bunch of worthy teams for this spot that fell just outside the top 25, and the Bears might be considered something of a reach given the losses of standout goaltender Tyler Steffens and star forwards Billy Rose, Sam Newpower and Grant Hofeld, among 12 departing seniors.
So what’s with all the optimism? Let’s start with the return of junior Lleyton Roed (for this exercise, we’re assuming all players are returning next season, even though we know that won’t be the case), who shared the team scoring lead with Rose with 52 points and is the Bears’ top returning goal scorer with 23.
We envision Roed having something of a Matthew Gleason-like season in 2020-21, meaning Roed has the ability and opportunity to emulate what Gleason, the Cretin-Derham Hall senior and Mr. Hockey finalist did last season in carrying the Raiders to a string of surprising upsets and a lofty state ranking. Like Gleason, we also expect Roed to figure prominently into next year’s Mr. Hockey mix.
Of course, Roed will need some support. Junior Ethan Moerke scored six goals and added eight assists and could develop into a trusted, productive sidekick. Beyond that there’s only four more returning goals, and two of those belong to defensemen Joey Frattalone and Nicky O’Brien. Cody Kodytek (seven assists) is another returning defenseman for a Bears program that always seams to fashion a formidable defense no matter the yearly personnel changes.
Goaltending is yet another great unknown, with both Steffens and backup Ryan Dehling departing as seniors.
White Bear Lake has a traditionally strong youth program, but immediate high-impact help might be a year or two away. The Bears boast a top-ranked Pee Wee AA team, but none of its Bantam teams were contenders for state championships.
However, last season's junior varsity squad went 18-6-1 and should produce several varsity regulars.