Class A Boys Hockey Section Previews: Warroad tops preseason rankings
Who will make the Trek to the X for the 2023 Minnesota High School State Tournament? Find out The Rink Live's preseason picks for each section in Class A
The boys high school hockey season is just around the corner in Minnesota. The first games of the season start Tuesday, Nov. 23 with a plethora of tournaments on the calendar over Thanksgiving weekend. Find out which teams are the favorites — and which teams might be surprising — in each section this season in Class A.
Section Champion in 2022: New Prague
Our pick for 2023: Northfield
New Prague may have won the section title in 2022, but the Trojans had a less than stellar overall record at 11-17-2. Northfield lost to New Prague in double overtime in the section championship last year, but will likely be a top contender this year in Class A.
The Raiders went 20-6-1 last season and will retain 50-point scorers
, along with goaltender
. Northfield does lose
, who posted 91 points last season.
Northfield is our preseason No. 1 for Section 1A, but New Prague still has good shot to compete for the section title.
Other teams in the section include Albert Lea (19-9), Rochester Lourdes (19-8), Dodge County (16-11), La Crescent-Hokah (14-11-1), Red Wing (11-16), Faribault (10-16), Waseca (5-17-1), Winona/Cotter (New Co-op), and Austin (1-21)
Section Champion in 2022: Minneapolis
Our pick for 2023: Providence Academy
Minneapolis was a top team in Class A last season — finishing with a 23-7-1 record and breaking a state tournament drought that stretched back to the first Clinton administration — but lost quite a bit of their roster in the offseason. Top scorers Zander Zoia , Jack Hanson , Evan Grimm and starting goaltender Alex Lamont have all graduated. That's the main reason why the squad isn't our pick in the section.
Providence Academy had a solid year in 2021-22. It went 19-7-1 and went on a 10-game win streak at one point during the season. It sounds like the team is returning a majority of their scoring, along with their goaltenders. Louie Wehmann exploded for 61 points last year as a sophomore. Look for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior to lead the team this season as our No. 1 pick in Section 2A.
Delano (20-8) will also look to make a push for the title in this section after losing in the section final in 2022. The Tigers had some nice wins last year, but fell to Minneapolis twice.
Orono (12-14-1), Southwest Christian/Richfield (11-14-2), and Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato (16-9-1) also look to be in the top half of Section 2A.
Other teams in the section include Mound Westonka (12-14-1), who lost their leading scorer Max Krebsbach to Minnetonka, Hutchinson (11-15-1), Breck (9-17), Bloomington Kennedy (6-19-1), and Waconia (5-20).
Section Champion in 2022: Mankato East/Loyola
Our pick for 2023: Mankato East/Loyola
Mankato East/Loyola (17-12-1) soundly defeated New Ulm in the Section 3A championship last year. The Cougars never lost to another team in their section all season. They lost some key players, but have enough depth to stay a top competitor in Class A. Because of their dominant showing in 2021-22, we kept them as the top squad in the section.
New Ulm (21-7) is the next best team in the section, followed by Luverne (15-11) and Marshall (14-12).
Other Section 3A teams are Windom (12-14-1), Worthington (12-14), Fairmont (9-17), Mankato West (8-19), Minnesota River (5-20-1), and Redwood Valley (2-20)
Section Champion in 2022: Mahtomedi
Our pick for 2023: Mahtomedi
Yes, Mahtomedi (18-12-1) lost one of the best high school goalies the state has seen. But the Zephyrs have plenty of talent to keep them at the top of the section in the post-Ben Dardis era.
Look for senior skaters Charlie Drage and David Wolsfeld to lead the Zephyrs this year. The team has big shoes to fill in net, but should be able to stay on top if they can produce on offense and lock teams down defensively.
Simley (18-9-1) and Chisago Lakes (21-6-1) should both have solid teams this season to threaten Mahtomedi's No. 1 position.
Other squads in Section 4A include Two Rivers (11-15-1), St. Paul Highland/Central (10-15-1), St. Paul Academy (8-17-1), South St. Paul (6-20), and St. Paul Johnson (6-17-1).
Section Champion in 2022: Monticello
Our pick for 2023: Little Falls
The team with the best record in the section last year was Little Falls. The Flyers flew high last year, starting the 2021-22 season on a 15-game winning streak. They should return two of their top three leading scorers in Matt Filippi and Carter Oothoudt . This returning scoring is enough to put them in the 3A driver's seat.
Other teams to keep an eye on in this section are St. Cloud Cathedral (14-14) and Cambridge-Isanti (18-8).
The Crusaders didn't have the best overall record, but they have John Hirschfeld , who just participated in the USA Boys Select-16's National Camp this summer, returning. Cathedral made it all the way to the section final in 2022, and are only a few years removed from a state title.
Other teams in Section 5A are Mora-Milaca (18-6-2), Princeton (11-16), River Lakes (11-15), Pine City Area (8-18), Sauk Rapids-Rice (7-20), and Becker/Big Lake (4-21).
Section Champion in 2022: Alexandria
Our pick for 2023: Alexandria
Alexandria was 15-11 last year and was one of the best teams in Class A after the new year. The Cardinals lost leading scorer Josiah Gronholz, but should return Tyler Kludt, who netted 51 points in 31 games.
Alexandria is our No. 1 pick for Section 6A since it seems unlikely that any other team will be able to upset the squad for the title.
Fergus Falls was 18-10 last season, but lost to the Cardinals twice and lost top skater Isaac Johnson to the USHL.
Other teams in Section 6A include Northern Lakes (15-12), Morris-Benson Area (14-12-1), Wadena-Deer Creek (14-12), Prairie Centre Area (8-18), Willmar (5-21), and Breckenridge/Wahpeton (0-21).
Section Champion in 2022: Hermantown
Our pick for 2023: Hermantown
Surprise, surprise. It would be silly to pick anyone other than the defending state champs as No. 1 in Section 7A.
Although the Hawks likely lose Ty Hanson and Zam Plante to the USHL and Max Plante to the National Team Development Program, they'll still have plenty of depth this year.
Duluth Denfeld (19-9) and Proctor (16-9) are both set to have solid seasons, but — as much as it might entertain a certain segment of high school hockey fans — an upset of the Hawks for the section title is unlikely.
Other teams in Section 7A include Greenway (13-12), Hibbing/Chisholm (13-14), Rock Ridge (14-11-1), International Falls (8-18), North Shore (7-19), Ely (4-19-1), and Moose Lake (2-20-1).
Section Champion in 2022: Warroad
Our pick for 2023: Warroad
Section 8A runs through Hockeytown again this year. The Warriors' depth gives them a great case for being the best team in the state this season after a loss in the state championship last season to fellow powerhouse Hermantown.
Warroad has all of the pieces to be a top-team. They have an explosive offense, a strong defensive core and one of the best goaltenders in the country in Hampton Slukynsky . If Jayson Shaugabay returns for his senior season, he could be an early favorite for the prestigious Mr. Hockey award.
Other solid teams in Section 8A are Detroit Lakes (19-5-2), Red Lake Falls (17-8-1), Thief River Falls (16-12), and East Grand Forks (9-18). The rest of the teams in the section include Park Rapids (11-15-1), Bagley/Fosston (13-12-1), Kittson County Central (8-16-1), Lake of the Woods (9-13-1), and Crookston (6-18-1).