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Nothing Compares

Nothing Compares Feature Articles

School, family ties still strong for LaBate

By Sam Wigness 03/06/2017, 11:15pm CST

Former Holy Angels standout remains friends with former Stars teammates as he pursues full-time NHL roster spot

  • West Coast Braun

  • By Sam Wigness, Sport Ngin 01/08/2015, 12:30pm CST
  • Former White Bear Lake defenseman Justin Braun at home in San Jose
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  • Under the radar

  • By Sam Wigness, Sport Ngin 10/20/2014, 11:30am CDT
  • Intangibles are huge part of Minnetonka native Sam Coatta's college success
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  • Quietly dominant

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Apple Valley's Mike Lundin takes his smart, consistent game to the highest levels
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  • Scoring machine

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Former Edina standout Anders Lee has put up monster goal totals at every level
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  • Flipping the switch

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Move to defense helped propel Minnetonka's Jake Gardiner all the way to NHL
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  • Leader by example

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Former Moorhead standout Chris VandeVelde takes superb all-around game to NHL
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  • Class act

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Despite NHL career, J.T. Wyman of Blake hasn't forgotten his Minnesota hockey roots
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  • One step ahead

  • By Shaymus McLaughlin 10/25/2013, 10:15pm CDT
  • Toby Petersen, a state champ at Bloomington Jefferson, blessed with unteachable traits
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  • Long, hard road

  • By Nick Clark, Sun Newspapers 12/20/2012, 3:30pm CST
  • Well-traveled Stu Bickel, an Eden Prairie graduate, finds home in New York City
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  • Comfort zone

  • By Nick Clark 01/26/2012, 12:48pm CST
  • Cretin-Derham Hall's Ryan McDonagh well-equipped for Madison Square Garden pressure
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Minnesota Boys High School Hockey - Nothing Compares

The 23 NHL stars below, and thousands of other players, have all decided to stay home and play four years of high school hockey in front of their hometown crowds. These players feel strongly that their high school hockey experience did more to prepare them for the next level than any of the other options. These players believed that they had had a special opportunity to stay home and LEAVE A LEGACY!

Andrew Alberts

Graduated from Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in 1999. Scored the key goal to become the 1999 state champions. Two-Time All Conference.

“…finish your high school career — it was by far my most memorable experience … going to the state tournament and actually winning it was better than I could have ever imagined.”

David Backes

Graduated from Spring Lake Park High School in 2002. Three Times All-Conference, All-State, and a Mr. Hockey Finalist. Spring Lake Park’s All Time Assist Leader, and 2nd in Career Points.

“I am eight years removed from high school now, and I’m still hanging around with the guys I played with at Spring Lake Park.”

Justin Braun

Graduated from White Bear Lake High School in 2005. Three years of varsity hockey, including state Class 2A appearances in 2003 and 2005 when the Bears won consolation titles.

". . . my senior year I had my buddies that I'd played with for a long time. And with my family behind me, it was really fun."

J.T. Brown

Graduated from Rosemount High School in 2008. Finished as the school's all-time leader in goals scored. Three-time All-Conference selection. All-Metro. Mr. Hockey Finalist.

"I developed lifelong friendships and bonds with so many people through hockey - it was more than just playing hockey."

Nick Bjugstad

Graduated from Blaine High School in 2010. Four-year letterwinner. Three state tournament appearances. Mr. Hockey in 2010.

"I thought it was good for me to stay and get my confidence at the varsity level . . . I played in three state tournaments . . . a great experience . . . I definitely gained a lot from staying."

Ryan Carter

Graduated from White Bear Lake High School in 2002. All-State, Mr Hockey Finalist 2002. Lettered in Football and Track.

“I remember the rivalries. Playing Hill-Murray, we always hated each other and the games were always more than talked up. There was an emotion attached to those games that I haven’t really had since.”

Matt Cullen

Graduated from Moorhead High School in 1995. Three state tournament appearances and three all-state tournament team selections. AP Player of the Year and Mr. Hockey finalist as a senior. Second-round NHL Draft selection by the Anaheim Ducks. 3.9 GPA.

"I think it's important in every player's development to be the main man, the go-to guy and the guy that's on the ice all the time and counted on in big situations."

Jake Gardiner

Graduated from Minnetonka High School in 2008. Metro Player of the Year, All-State, Mr. Hockey Finalist.

"It's been awesome, every step of the way. I still wish I could be in high school again, and do it all over again, because those were some of the best days of my life."

Tom Gilbert

Graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School in 2001. 3 years varsity hockey, 2 years All-Conference, Captain, Mr. Hockey finalist. In Baseball, 2 years varsity, senior captain and All-Conference. School Athlete of the Year 2001.

"My senior year was about the opportunity to play with my buddies. It was the best time. Those are friendships that last forever."

Alex Goligoski

Graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 2004. Honorable mention All State as a junior. All-State and Mr. Hockey finalist as a senior. Second-round NHL draft selection for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two-year letterwinner in baseball.

"I wanted to stay in high school and play with all my friends growing up and play my senior year and be home one last year. I really can't imagine doing it any other way."

Matt Hendricks

Graduated from Blaine High School in 2000. All-State, State Champion, and Mr. Hockey Finalist. Quarterback in Football and Catcher in Baseball.

"Winning the 2000 state title is right there in top three things I've done in hockey ... I can go back to the exact day we won, and all the memories I had before that watching (the state tournament) as a kid."

Jack Hillen

Graduated from Holy Angels High School in 2004. Four-year letterwinner, three state tournament appearances, including a state championship in 2002. All-State selection and Mr. Hockey finalist as a senior. Career leading scorer among defensemen at Holy Angels. Two years all-conference in golf and an honor roll student.

"I wouldn't trade those four years for anything in the world. ... people would always tell me that I'd think back on my four years of high school and absolutely love it -- and that' s so true."

Tim Jackman

Graduated from Park Center High School in 2000. Two time All-Conference selection, First team All-State 2000. Mr. Hockey finalist.

"I had to choose, and I chose my friends ... I wanted to come back, and I was glad that I did."

Nick Leddy

Graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2009. All State, State Champion, Mr. Hockey. 1st round NHL draft choice.

"There's something special about playing high school hockey. The atmosphere is always good and it's always fun."

Anders Lee

Graduated from Edina High School in 2009. All-State twice, Mr. Hockey finalist, five state tournament appearances, lettered in football and track.

"The coolest part is playing for your school, the community. Those big rivalry games, they fill up the stands ... Those are the games ... the memories that you always have."

Brian Lee

Graduated from Moorhead High School in 2005. Two-year letterwinner in golf, two-time All-State hockey selection, three state Class AA tournament appearances, 2005 Mr. Hockey and AP Player of the Year, first-round NHL draft choice by the Ottawa Senators.

"You can't explain in words how awesome it is to throw on your hometown jersey and play in the state tournament in front of your buddies and your family at the Xcel Energy Center."

Mike Lundin

Graduated from Apple Valley High School in 2003. Metro Player of the Year, AP Hockey Player of the Year, Mr. Hockey finalist.

"I can remember playing big street hockey games as a junior, senior in high school, just for the fun of it ... just the love for the game."

Paul Martin

Graduated from Elk River High School in 2000. All-State Hockey, 1999 State Hockey Tournament, 2000 Mr. Hockey, 2000 State Baseball Tournament.

“I chose to stay at Elk River with my friends and teammates … the most memorable moments were the State Hockey Tournament and the State Baseball Tournament.”

Ryan McDonagh

Graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in 2007. All Metro and All State as a senior, Mr. Hockey 2007. State Champion in Hockey and Baseball.

"There was no way I was leaving, I wouldn't trade that decision for anything ... being able to graduate and be home with my family for one more year was perfect for me."

Travis Morin

Graduated from Osseo High School in 2002 as Orioles' career points leader. Three-year letterwinner. Mr. Hockey finalist. Metro Player of the Year. 

"High school hockey for me was a stepping stone on the road to becoming a professional hockey player. Everything I do today, I learned in high school. I paved the road fro my career."

Brock Nelson

Graduated from Warroad High School in 2010. Three years varsity hockey. Mr. Hockey finalist. Scored 111 career goals. Scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime in 2009 state Class A third-place game.

". . . just getting there (to the state tournaments) from a small school were amazing . . . and to have the whole town follow on the six-hour drive made it that much better . . . the Xcel was just crazy."

Aaron Ness

Graduated from Roseau High School in 2008. Won state championship in 2007 and made another appearance in 2008. Associated Press Player of the Year and Mr. Hockey in 2008.

"It was pretty cool of them to do that."

- Ness on his hometown of Roseau declaring March 17-21 "Aaron Ness Week."

Matt Niskanen

Graduated from Virginia High School in 2005. All-State, Mr. Hockey Finalist, 2005 State Hockey Tournament, All-State in Football, 2004 State Football Tournament.

“Playing with my friends, playing three sports, and playing in front of my hometown were the biggest reasons for finishing my senior year with my team.”

T.J. Oshie

Graduated from Warroad High School in 2005. All-State, Mr. Hockey Finalist, Three Time State Hockey Tournament Participant and Two Time Champion in 2003 and 2005.

“I will never forget my teammates from high school. We would just hang out in the locker room for two hours after practice.”

T.J. Oshie

"Sochi" Oshie was the U.S. Olympic Shootout star versus the Russians. He stayed his senior year to lead Class A Warroad High School to the state championship.

Toby Petersen

Graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School in 1996. All State, state champion.

"Stepping on the [Civic Center] ice and seeing 17, 18,000 people up there ... With the band playing, you've got the student section at each end, it was such a great experience."

Chris VandeVelde

Graduated from Moorhead High School in 2005. Three state tournament appearances, team MVP, All-State, All-Tournament and a Mr. Hockey finalist. Fourth round NHL draft choice for Edmonton, two-year letterwinner in football and baseball.

"I think I became more of a leader that year and as a forward, the team was kind of looking to me. It was one of the best years of my life."

J.T. Wyman

Graduate from The Blake School in 2004. Leading scorer, Mr. Hockey finalist.

"Being from Minnesota, you start playing hockey at such a young age, 4 and 5, and it's your friends and your buddies, and I think that's the core."