ST. PAUL -- If the 2011 NHL Entry Draft proved one thing, it's that scholastic hockey is alive and well in the Twin Cities.
Minnesota high school hockey was certainly in high demand beginning Saturday at Xcel Energy Center as evidenced by the fact that 11 of 18 scholastic players were local Minnesotans.
Mike Snee, the executive director of Minnesota Hockey, undoubtedly takes great pride in the type of players the state has produced over the years.
"Minnesota prides itself as being the state of hockey; we have more kids playing hockey than any other kids in the country," Snee told NHL.com. "We've had a lot of success with some of our higher end players being drafted in all rounds. It's inspiring for our young players to see neighbors and kids that went through the same association as them of being drafted in the NHL."
Leading the way this year was Wayzata junior left wing Mario Lucia, who was chosen in the second round (60th overall) by the hometown Minnesota Wild. After Minnesota, the state of Connecticut was next in line with four high school players chosen -- the highest pick being center Philippe Hudon of Choate-Rosemary Hall to the Detroit Red Wings in the fifth round (No. 145).
Lucia finished with 30 goals, 24 assists, 54 points (2 points per game) and a plus-34 rating in 27 games with Wayzata this season. Kyle Rau, who led Eden Prairie to its second Minnesota state championship in three seasons on a goal in triple overtime, became only the second Mr. Hockey Award winner not to be selected in the opening round of the Draft in seven years.
Rau, who is bound for the University of Minnesota, totaled 41 goals, 40 assists, 81 points (2.61 ppg) and a plus-30 rating in 31 games in 2010-11.
Since the 2000 Draft, 174 high school players have been plucked from various schools throughout the country. Since 2003, 153 players have been tabbed. The record for most high school players chosen was in 1987, when John LeClair (Montreal Canadiens, No. 33) of Bellows Free Academy in Vermont was the first of 69 players selected.
The 2011 Draft marked the first time in 10 years that a Minnesota native wasn't selected in the opening round. Here's a breakdown of the top five scholastic players chosen this weekend at Xcel Energy Center. Each player is preceded by their draft number:
60 -- Mario Lucia (Wayzata HS, Minn.), Wild -- In 2010-11, Lucia produced a career-high 30 goals, 54 points and a plus-34 rating in 27 games with Wayzata, including 5 goals and 7 points in three sectional playoff games. Wayzata lost in double-overtime to Eden Prairie in the Section 6AA championship. He had 15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points and a plus-25 rating in 25 games in 2009-10. His father, Don, is the head coach for the University of Minnesota and his brother, Tony, was drafted 193rd in 2005 by the San Jose Sharks. His sister, Jessica, is a two time All-American volleyball player from Concordia University.
He'll continue his career with either the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League or the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League before moving on to either Minnesota University or Notre Dame.
72 -- Steven Fogarty (Edina, Minn.), Rangers -- The 18-year-old had 23 goals and 40 points in 24 games for Edina. He'll join the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League for one season and then attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2012. The Rangers must covet Fogarty, evidenced by the fact they traded one of their top prospects, Evgeny Grachev to the St. Louis Blues to gain the selection.
Fogarty led his team with a plus-14 rating, 2 shorthanded goals and 4 game-winning goals.
91 -- Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Panthers -- The 2011 Mr. Hockey Award winner "sees the game like a magic man," according to Central Scouting's Jack Barzee. The 5-foot-8, 163-pound center scored the game-winner at 4:43 of the third overtime to give Eden Prairie the Class 2A championship at Xcel Energy Center on March 12.
Rau becomes the second straight Mr. Hockey Award-winner chosen by the Panthers in two seasons -- the club selected Blaine's Nick Bjugsted 19th last June at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Rau had 41 goals, 40 assists, 81 points (2.61 ppg) and a plus-30 rating in 31 games this season. Keep in mind that five of the last seven Mr. Hockey winners were taken in the first round of their respective drafts (Bjugsted, 2010; Nick Leddy, 2009; Ryan McDonagh, 2007; David Fischer, 2006; Brian Lee, 2005). Rau's size might have been the one blemish that kept him from hearing his name called earlier.
98 -- Mike Reilly (Shattuck-St. Mary's School, Minn.), Blue Jackets -- The 5-foot-10, 150-pound defenseman might not possess that intimidating look or hulking stature but he's intelligence and vision catapulted him 13 slots to No. 52 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters. In his first season at the famed Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault, Minn. -- after spending two seasons at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn. -- Reilly was able to elevate his draft stock by playing a key role in Shattuck's first USA Hockey national championship in three seasons. The junior has committed to the University of Minnesota.
"He's going to be puck-moving defenseman … it comes really natural for him and he plays with his head up and makes a great first pass," Shattuck coach Tom Ward told NHL.com. "He can move the puck up the rink. He's going to have to work on polishing up the defensive side of his game, but he understands that and isn't afraid of it. He knows that's his weaknesses in his game and he's intelligent enough to want to improve it -- he played in every situation for us on special teams."
101 -- Joseph Labate (Holy Angels, Minn.), Canucks -- The University of Wisconsin-bound center produced 29 goals, 52 points and a plus-27 rating in 26 games for the Stars (16-9-1). The 6-4, 180-pound Labate, who failed to score a point only three times all season, turned down scholarship offers from Nebraska-Omaha, Maine, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bemidji State and Minnesota State.
"When I look at Labate and Lucia, I don't see that big a difference between the two," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "Watching Labate was like watching Bjugstad (Florida Panthers, No. 19, 2010) because he skates so well. Lucia is probably more like Brock Nelson (New York Islanders, No. 30, 2010) with those great hands around the cage.
"But I do feel Labate is more of a physical presence than Lucia."
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