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High School Hockey, Nothing Compares

By Ken Pauly , 03/03/15, 5:45PM CST


As alternative choices to high school hockey and community-based programs continue to present themselves, it is more important than ever for high school coaches to understand the facts and success stories about the development of hockey players. The reality is, Minnesota not only has the best development model in the country, but it is the best choice for the developing athlete in their quest to maximize their potential.

While the noise of the “early departures” can be deafening, and a little disheartening, our coaching community is working hard to protect and preserve our model that has produced so many elite high school, junior, collegiate and professional players.

The MHCA’s “Nothing Compares” campaign has been in place for nearly a decade, and has been successful in celebrating the high school game, our athletes and those players who graduated from high school and gone on to do great things at the highest levels of our game.

You will notice Anders Lee on the back cover of the state tournament issue of “Let’s Play Hockey”. Lee was a three sport athlete before graduating at Edina High School. In addition, Brock Nelson of Warroad High School is featured in the state tournament program. You can see other highlighted athletes as part of the “Nothing Compares” program here.

As a representative of the MSHSL coaching fraternity this week at the state tournament, please consider the following in your conversations with parents, colleagues and members of the media:


  • 60% of the Minnesotan’s in the NHL graduated from their high school.
  • 80% of the Minnesotans in the NHL played at least one or two seasons with a high school program.
  • Nick Bjugstad is the leading scorer for the Florida Panthers. Bjugstad signed a six year contract for $4.5 million per year without ever playing a game in the USHL or with the Ann Arbor program. He was a Blaine High School graduate and a State Tourney participant.
  • Stanley Cup Champion Nick Leddy recently signed a $34 million contract with the New York Islanders with no USHL or Ann Arbor experience. Leddy was a Eden Prairie High School graduate and high school state champion. In fact the New York Islander roster includes several Minnesota high hockey products this season.

Also consider the Minnesota impact in college hockey:

Division I Men’s Players:

Minnesota - 203

Michigan - 151

Massachusetts - 112

New York - 81

Pennsylvania - 52

New Jersey - 52

Minnesota produces 12.7% of all Division I men’s hockey players and 18.7% of all Americans playing Division I men’s hockey. Despite the growth of hockey in nontraditional areas, the number of Minnesotans playing Division I men’s hockey is actually growing – an increase of 11% from last season (183).

Although there may be a vocal minority who continue to promote the idea of leaving high school for green pastures, the numbers don’t lie.  As coaches representing the high school game it’s important to note that high school hockey graduates are having unprecedented success. We need to keep improving our individual programs, work for the betterment of all and work with the understanding that the talent pendulum is always swinging. Stay true to your calling and keep working to improve the best model in the country.