15 Feb 19
The Minnesota high school boys hockey state tournament celebrates its 75th year this season. Over the past three-quarters of a century, the state tournament wouldn’t be the spectacle it is today if not for all the great players who have played in it.
So, to commemorate the 75th edition of Minnesota’s own personal version of March Madness, the Pioneer Press put together a list of the 75 greatest players to play Minnesota boys high school hockey. This week’s list covers Nos. 25-16, following the previous four lists of players ranked 26 to 35, 36 to 45, 46 to 60 and 61 to 75. The list will continue every Sunday in the Pioneer Press until the 2019 state tournament takes place March 6-9 at Xcel Energy Center.
25. MATT CULLEN
Last year of high school hockey: 1995
About him: Cullen played in a pair of state tournaments, leading the Spuds to a runner-up finish in the Tier I division as he tallied three assists in three games.
Cullen was the Associated Press Minnesota high school player of the year that season, recording 47 goals and 42 assists. He was selected 35th overall by Anaheim in the 1996 NHL draft.
Cullen went on to play two seasons at St. Cloud State, where he amassed 86 points.
The following season, he started one of the longest NHL careers of all time. At 42 years old, Cullen has played more than 1,490 games, 22nd all time.
Cullen has 727 career points and is a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
24. GEORGE PELAWA
Last year of high school hockey: 1986
About him: Pelawa had three goals and five assists as a senior in the 1986 state tournament, leading Bemidji to a consolation championship. It was one of two state tournaments he played in.
He tallied 29 goals and 25 assists his final high season and was named Mr. Hockey.
Pelawa was a highly-touted football recruit, but instead was going to play college hockey at North Dakota and was selected 16th overall by Calgary in the 1986 NHL draft. But his life was cut short when he died in a car crash in 1986.
23. NICK LEDDY
School: Eden Prairie
Last year of high school hockey: 2009
About him: Leddy could have left high school after his junior season to go play for the U.S. National Development Team, but he is probably glad he chose to stay home.
As a senior, he led Eden Prairie to the 2009 Class 2A state championship, Eden Prairie’s first, scoring three goals and adding two assists in three games at Xcel Energy Center.
Leddy tallied 37 points as a senior and was named Mr. Hockey. The Wild selected him 16th overall in the 2009 NHL draft.
He played just one year of college hockey with the Gophers before turning pro.
Leddy has played more than 650 NHL games, amassing 276 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013.
22. GARY SARGENT
Last year of high school hockey: 1972
About him: A brilliant offensive defenseman, Sargent led Bemidji to the program’s first state tournament appearance as a senior in 1972. He put up 51 points that season from the blue line.
Sargent was a three-sport standout who was heavily recruited to play major college football and offered a baseball contract by the Twins, but he chose the hockey route.
From there, he went to Bemidji State, where he played one season, scoring 23 goals to go with 24 assists. He was selected 48th overall by the Kings in the 1974 NHL draft.
In the NHL, Sargent had a stretch of three straight seasons with 40-plus points. He played 402 NHL games, 187 of which were with the North Stars. Sargent’s pro career was cut short by injuries.
21. JOE MICHELETTI
Last year of high school hockey: 1973
About him: Micheletti had one of the great state tournament runs in 1973.
He recorded two hat tricks —– the first in Hibbing’s 4-2 quarterfinal win over Bemidji, the second in its 6-3 victory over Alexander Ramsey in the title game. For the tournament, Micheletti had six goals and five assists while leading the program to its first title since 1952.
Micheletti experienced similar success with the Gophers. He amassed 106 points in four seasons, serving as team captain as a senior. Micheletti won two NCAA championships with Minnesota
Micheletti played 158 NHL games, scoring 71 points.
20. HENRY BOUCHA
Last year of high school hockey: 1969
About him: The 1969 state tournament has a major “what if?” attached to it. Edina was certainly a deserving champion in 1969, defeating Warroad 5-4 in overtime in the title game. But Boucha wasn’t present for that game’s conclusion. A big hit knocked Boucha out of the game much earlier.
His presence easily could have changed that result. During his senior year, Boucha tallied 60 goals and 35 assists — and he already had assisted on a goal earlier in the game against Edina.
Boucha went off to become an international team ace for the United States. He had seven goals in 10 games in the 1971 World Championships, and he had six points in six games in the 1972 Olympics, leading the U.S. to a silver medal.
Boucha played in 247 NHL games before a blow to the head by an opposing player’s stick caused injuries that all but ended Boucha’s career.
Boucha is a member of the United State Hockey Hall of Fame.
19. MARK PAVELICH
Last high of high school hockey: 1976
About him: After an impressive high school career in which Pavelich and Eveleth finished just short of the state tournament on a couple of occasions, Pavelich went on to play for Minnesota Duluth.
There, Pavelich notched 142 points in three seasons, including a junior year that included 31 goals and 48 assists. That 79-point season ranks fifth all time in program history.
But he is most known for what came right after that collegiate career. Pavelich was not only on the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team, but he played a key role on it. He had seven points in those Olympic Games, one goal and six assists. Pavelich assisted on Mike Eruzione’s famous game-winning goal in the semifinals against the Soviet Union.
Pavelich played in 355 NHL games, scoring 329 points. He notched 75-plus points in each of his first three seasons, all with the Rangers.
18. JAKE GUENTZEL
Last year of high school hockey: 2012
About him: Guentzel helped Hill-Murray to a runner-up finish in his only appearance in the Class 2A state tournament in 2012. He had a goal and two assists in that tournament.
In two years with the Pioneers, Guentzel accumulated 124 points, including 23 goals and 52 assists as a junior.
Guentzel forewent his senior campaign to play a full year in the United States Hockey League before playing his college hockey at Nebraska-Omaha. In his sophomore campaign, Guentzel helped the Mavericks reach their first Frozen Four. He put up 119 points in three seasons, seventh-most in program history.
Guentzel was drafted 77th overall by Pittsburgh in 2013. He is in the midst of his third NHL season, and has recorded 133 points in 179 regular-season games. But it’s the postseason where he has made his presence known. Guentzel is a playoff monster. He scored 13 goals in the 2017 playoffs as the Penguins marched to a Stanley Cup title.
The following season Guentzel posted another 21 playoff points — in just 12 games played.
17. RYAN McDONAGH
School: Cretin-Derham Hall
Last year of high school hockey: 2007
About him: McDonagh had two goals and three assists in the 2006 state tournament, leading Cretin-Derham Hall to its lone Minnesota State High School League state championship. The Raiders held their opponents to just four goals over three state games.
In high school three seasons, McDonagh recorded 115 points, including a senior year when he recorded 14 goals and 26 assists and was named Mr. Hockey.
McDonagh went on to play three seasons for the Badgers, recording 46 points. He helped Wisconsin reach the Frozen Four as team captain in 2010.
McDonagh has played 588 NHL games, recording 270 points. He played in the 2014 Olympics, scoring two points. He is a two-time NHL all-star.
16. REED LARSON
School: Minneapolis Roosevelt
Last year of high school hockey: 1974
About him: Larson helped Minneapolis Roosevelt reach the state tournament in 1974. He assisted on the goal that put Roosevelt up 2-1 on Grand Rapids in the quarterfinals, only to have Grand Rapids storm back to win 3-2 in overtime.
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Larson went on to play for the Gophers, where he scored 95 points in three seasons. He scored 14 goals in the 1975-76 season, tied for fifth all time by a Gophers defenseman. It was that same season when Minnesota won a national title. The Gophers also reached the Frozen Four in Larson’s freshman campaign.
Larson played in 14 NHL seasons, totaling 904 games. He amassed 685 points, played in three all-star games and is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
HOW THE TEAM WAS CHOSEN
The Pioneer Press put together a small selection committee of Minnesota hockey experts representing high school, college and professional hockey. The selection committee is largely responsible for the printed list.
While this is a list centered on those who played Minnesota high school hockey, a player’s high school career was only part of the equation. How a player performed after high school — in their college, professional and national team careers — factored heavily into the equation. This list is meant to rate players’ careers as a whole.
Players on this list had to have played Minnesota high school hockey, but were not penalized for not staying in high school through their senior seasons, which, with the changing times, is becoming less and less common for the game’s elite players.
For the purposes of this list, Shattuck St. Mary’s was not considered a Minnesota high school hockey program since its team plays a junior schedule.