Maple Grove's Blake Steenerson played his entire sophomore season on JV, now he's a Division I commit
Vermont has commitments from Alex Bump (Prior Lake), Sam Scheetz (Minnetonka), 2022 Mr. Hockey Max Strand (Roseau), and now Blake Steenerson of Maple Grove.
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — The Minnesota to Vermont pipeline just got wider.
People started to notice a pattern of skaters from the State of Hockey committing to Vermont after Prior Lake's Alex Bump announced his commitment to the Catamounts back in 2021. Bump went on to be a Mr. Hockey semifinalist and was subsequently drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the fifth round of the 2022 draft.
Many hockey fans on social media didn't get why Bump committed to a school all the way across the country, but then one by one, more and more Minnesotans started committing to the program.
2022 Mr. Hockey winner Max Strand was the next prospect to commit to the Catamounts. Then Minnetonka junior Sam Scheetz did the same. And now, Maple Grove's Blake Steenerson is also headed to The Green Mountain State.
I am proud to announce my commitment to play Division 1 hockey and further my education at the University of Vermont. I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates, teachers, and coaches for all of their support! pic.twitter.com/rPq2luPWRP— Blake Steenerson (@SteenersonBlake) February 17, 2023
And there's even more Minnesotans now than just those four who are committed to the University, including Mario Gasparini (Lakeville North), Jack Malinski (Lakeville South) and Colin Kessler (Anchorage, Alaska / Duluth, Minn.).
"Right after that second Rogers game [that Maple Grove played in], Vermont reached out to me and I set up a meeting with them for that Saturday, and on Monday they offered me a scholarship to go play there," said the 17-year-old forward.
So why are so many Minnesotan skaters suddenly headed to Vermont? What do they like such much about the program?
"Two things stood out to me; the campus and where it's located, I'm a big outdoorsman so I like to fish and hunt and all that, and the coaching staff, they checked all my boxes and that was a really big thing for me," he said.
And there's already a handful of players from the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the Vermont roster. This includes Eric Gotz (Hermantown), Robbie Stucker (St. Paul / St. Thomas Academy), Luke Mountain (Woodbury / Shattuck St. Mary's), and Jens Richards (Detroit Lakes / Northstar Christian).
Steenerson, a Maple Grove native, comes from a hockey family and started playing at a young age, but he actually had more of a nontraditional path to committing to Division I hockey.
The 6-foot-4, 194-pound senior actually spent his entire sophomore season playing on Maple Grove's JV team. He then moved up to varsity in 2021-22 where he posted 16 points in 31 games and helped the Crimson to the Class AA state championship game.
Steenerson really started to turn heads this past fall in the Upper Midwest Elite League, where he netted a massive 29 points in just 20 games. The forward is now third in total points at Maple Grove (37) this season and is scoring at a 1.48 point-per-game pace.
So how did the senior demonstrate so much improvement over the last few seasons, going from JV to now becoming a Division I committed prospect?
"My confidence has definitely grown over the past few years," he said. "Every summer I've been working hard everyday. I've had a lot of great coaches who have helped me and just going hard every day at practice has helped me get to where I am now."
Hard work has paid dividends for Steenerson, who is a key part of the Crimson's success this year as the team is 19-5-1 overall and ranked in the top-10 in 2022-23.
"I really like to be physical, and being physical with my size really helps our team get some momentum," said the Maple Grove native. "Also just working well in the corners and my vision on the ice ... I've been working on scoring goals in tight too and that's one thing that's helped me a lot this year."
Steenerson is second on his squad in total goals this year with 16. Maple Grove as a team will use his talent with hopes of heading back to the state tournament this season to compete for a Class AA state title.
"As a team we've really started to come together these past few weeks...Bonding more and knowing that any day could be your last, we're working hard everyday and we all want to get where we were last year," said the senior.
And Steenerson isn't just good at hockey, he uses his athleticism to now also compete for Maple Grove's tennis team. He used to play lacrosse up until sophomore year as well.
The Minnesota native has plans to play junior hockey in the fall for the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). Steenerson signed a tender with the team in November of 2022. He even competed in two games with the team this past winter and was able to tack on a point in his very first NAHL game.
"I really liked it and I thought that I was able to keep up [at the junior hockey level]," said the forward on his NAHL experience. "All of the teammates helped me through it all and it felt like home right away."
Steenerson likely has at least one season of junior hockey ahead of him before he heads to school at Vermont. Until then, he'll finish up 2022-23 with Maple Grove and has hopes of winning a state title. When he's not competing in hockey or tennis, you can likely find the outdoorsman fishing or hunting.