There are many unknowns for Jonah Aegerter.
Aegerter played last season for the Oakland (Mich.) Jr. Grizzlies 15-and-under AAA team, but will he go back and play for their 16-and-under team this season?
The Tri-City Storm took the center in the second round (18th overall) of the United States Hockey League's Futures Draft. He's attended camp with the Storm, but will he join them for the regular season?
"I'm on (the Storm's) affiliate roster, but with all that is going on with COVID, we don't know exactly what I'm going to do," said Aegerter, who turned 16 in January. "We'll figure out something in the coming weeks, whether I go there or go back to Michigan."
While there is uncertainty about his immediate future, he's made a decision on where he wants to play college hockey. Aergerter verbally committed to play for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team. He said that he was also being recruited by the University of Michigan, Nebraska Omaha and Minnesota Duluth.
"When (Huskies coaches) were able to talk to us, they reached out and we talked a lot," said Aergerter, who is from Janesville, Wis. "Me and (assistant) coach (Nick) Oliver had a really good rapport the whole time, as friends almost, where we're talking about ups and downs of life. That was awesome to me.
"Then I talked to (head) coach (Brett) Larson and the coaching staff. The rapport I built with them was amazing and I was blown away by their personalities, how they care about you more than as just a hockey player."
Aergerter will be a junior in high school this fall. Under new NCAA recruiting rules, college coaches cannot talk to prospective players until January of their sophomore seasons. Players cannot make verbal commitments to college programs until Aug. 1 before their junior seasons.
And because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA has extended its dead time for on-site official recruiting visits through the end of August. So Aergerter has not been on St. Cloud State's campus. But he has seen videos of the facilities and talked with officials from the university via zoom.
Despite all of those limitations, he is sold on playing for St. Cloud State.
"I think St. Cloud was the best fit for him because of his personality," said Dan Riedel, who was Aegerter's coach last season with the Grizzlies. "The personality of the coaching staff with Lars and (assistant) coach (Dave) Shyiak and Ollie ... it's just a good fit. They have very similar personalities."
So what is Aergerter's personality like?
"Great student, off the ice high character," Riedel said of Aergerter, who has a 3.8 grade-point average. "He's one of those kids that when you come to the rink every day, you smile when you see him because he's always got a huge grin. He's like a hockey nerd. The type of guy you love to have on your team, a guy your teammates love.
"There's nothing bad and I'm not a biased, tire-pumping coach. There's nothing bad I can give you on the kid and that's why he ended up at a big-time program."
Riedel played for Ferris State from 2005-07 and then minor league hockey in North America until 2011. He is also the director of player personnel for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in the USHL.
On the ice
Last season, Aergerter played center on a talented team. He had had 23 goals, 52 assists, 75 points and was a plus-57 in 69 games played for the Junior Grizzlies, who were poised to make their fourth straight USA Hockey national tournament when the pandemic shut down the season.
"He was the fastest kid at our level, anywhere in the country," Riedel said of Aergerter. "His change of direction, his edges — he's a modern player, plays very, very fast. A lot of guys can't slow down and do what he can do at a high rate of speed. He's a dynamic skater, really good hands, quick release, good vision and extremely, extremely high work ethic. He's a competitive kid and a coach's dream."
Aergerter is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds and Riedel said that he plays through stick and body checking to get to open ice.
But there was one area where Aergerter needed to grow last season and that was to not constantly be a distributor of the puck.
"I would say that, in the offensive zone, I got way better," he said. "I got more confident shooting in the second half of the year. I was shooting the puck a little more. I got more confident with the puck and nothing bad happens when you shoot the puck."
Riedel said that Aergerter picked up a lot of nuances of the game during the season.
"He really came a long way in when he got (the puck), he would move it and jump to (open) space and just learning how to play with really good players," Riedel said. "He has great hockey sense, but he learned little details like supporting the puck, when to really use his speed, coming underneath so he could attack.
"He was probably too unselfish when he got here. I think he probably scored 75 percent of his goals in the second half of the year. He understood that it's OK to be selfish at times, especially when you're in good areas. But his skill set is outrageous."
And he wasn't alone in that regard. Forwards Rutger McGroarty and Hunter Brzustewicz were teammates last season and both will play for the United States National Team Development Program Under-17 team this season. McGroarty has committed to Notre Dame and Brzustewicz has committed to Michigan.
But at 16, Aergerter had plenty of time to pick a college. So why did he commit now?
"I just had that gut feeling and heart feeling that (St. Cloud State) was the place to be," he said. "I know they won the NCHC two years ago and I really started watching this team when the Poehling brothers were there. I was a huge fan of all three of them and it was a lot of fun to watch them.
"They really helped me to catch on to St. Cloud hockey."
He also developed his rapport with Oliver last summer at a the USA Boys Select 15 Player Development Camp in New York. Aergerter was a player at the camp and Oliver was one of the coaches.