ANDOVER, Minn. — For creative people, one of the biggest compliments they can receive is that there is demand for their work.
It does not sound like Wyatt Kaiser still has many of the ceramic pieces he has made in recent years.
"Most of my stuff my grandma or my mom steals away, so most of the time I just make it and I make a ton of it," Kaiser said. "I think last year, I made 120 things. I pretty much like everything I make.
"I make all kinds of things: pots, plates, bowls, big vases, little cups ... you can get real creative with it."
The Andover High School senior's ceramic productivity has caused one issue, though, with the art teacher.
"He runs her out of clay and the other students don't have any," Andover head boys hockey coach Mark Manney said. "He'll come in on days off if she's going to be in the school."
For his senior class, Kaiser was voted "Most Artistic." Oh, by the way, he was also voted "Most Athletic."
On top of being a budding artist, Kaiser is the top-rated high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota this season by NHL Central Scouting. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound defenseman is rated 56th among North American skaters eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
He's the captain for Andover, which is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A and is 19-3-1 with two games left in its regular season schedule.
His size is not bad for a high school player and he has 30 points, which is fifth on his team. But what has scouts so interested in Kaiser?
"His skating," said Manney, who has been the Huskies' head coach since 2009 and is a former college player at the Air Force Academy. "You can't help but notice how he moves his feet, how smooth he is and how quick and how he changes direction. Even if guys wouldn't know he's a good player, they'd pick up on his skating."
Andover assistant coach Brett Barta played defense for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team from 2007-11. As a college senior, Barta was a teammate of defenseman Nick Jensen, a smooth skater who is in his fifth NHL season and is playing for the Washington Capitals.
"Wyatt is probably smoother than Nick was," Barta said of their skating styles. "Nick's back leg would come up. Nick was really explosive whereas, Wyatt is smooth almost all the time.
"His upper half of his body is always sitting in the same position and he can stickhandle like that. They're both great skaters," Barta said of Jensen and Kaiser, who then added another name for comparison. "He's got a little bit of (Bret) Hedican in him."
Hedican played defense for St. Cloud State from 1988-91 and then played 1,039 NHL games from 1991-2009 and played for Team USA in two Olympic Games (1992 and 2006).
So it should be no surprise the amount of attention that Kaiser is receiving from NHL scouts. Manney said that there have been between 15-20 scouts from NHL teams at all of Andover's games this season. Kaiser has had 1-on-1 meetings with more than 10 teams.
So how has Kaiser dealt with all that attention?
"He's really down to earth and really hates the attention," Manney said.
"He's a little aloof in a, 'it's all right, I'm hanging with my buddies right now' way," Barta said. "He's the kind of kid who would leave his cell phone at home and not care."
While Kaiser may not crave the attention, it took a bit for some of his teammates to get used to having NHL scouts at their games.
"They're around all the time," Manney said of the scouts. "I don't know if Wyatt notices it all that much, but the other kids do and I think it bugged them at first. I think they're used to it now.
"But they think if they make one good pass and maybe the NHL might like you, too," Manney said of Kaiser's teammates. "It just doesn't work that way. They try to do something heroic where the simple play is there. In the end, the NHL guy thinks, 'That guy can't play hockey. He had a simple play and he tried something heroic.'"
Back for senior year
Some of the top high school players in the state will bypass their senior season to play juniors to help with their development and maturity.
Kaiser, who turns 18 in July, played 11 junior games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the Tier I United States Hockey League before his high school season started. He made it clear to the Dubuque staff, though, that he was coming back to Andover for his senior season.
"I didn't do a lot of socializing down in Dubuque. It was hockey, school; hockey, school," said Kaiser, who was taking online courses before returning. "I went into Dubuque and told the coach that when high school season starts, I'm leaving, going back to high school. I'm trying to get to the state tournament. I've been trying to do that and we've lost the last two years (in sections)."
In each of the last two years, Duluth East has defeated Andover for the Section 7AA championship.
While Kaiser's focus is on getting to the state tournament, the focus on him from a national standpoint started later than you may think.
In his first varsity season as a sophomore, Kaiser was about 5-5 and 130 pounds and had 16 points in 25 games. But he hit a growth spurt toward the end of that school year and things seemed to change quickly.
"Wyatt was an average, at best, high school defenseman as a sophomore," Manney said. "When our season ended, he was about 5-5, 5-6. By the time end of April came — two months later — he was like 5-9, 5-10. We do those spring High Performance (camps) with Minnesota Hockey. He went into that and was a completely differently player than we saw in February.
"He dominated. He absolutely dominated. He went to New York for the USA Hockey U-16 development camp and got picked to go over to Europe. He came back from that with colleges chasing him."
The University of Minnesota Duluth then ended up winning the recruiting battle for Kaiser.
"It was almost like I was growing up mentally, too," he said. "It was like I grew into my body and just everything kind of clicked.
"I was just having fun with hockey, working out a lot. I made my way to national camp and then played in the Four Nation Tournament and caught some eyes and then probably caught some eyes at the Dubuque (Fighting Saints) camp and started talking to UMD. I really liked everything there — coaches, location, culture. Just good all-around people."
The Bulldogs, undoubtedly, are impressed with his athletic ability. Kaiser has played tennis, soccer, football and golf in high school. He is also not the first member of his family to commit to college to play sports.
His father, Don, played linebacker for the University of North Dakota from 1993-96. His grandfather, Blane Comstock, played hockey at Bemidji State and was on the 1976 Olympic team.
His sister, Madison, is a sophomore defenseman for the Andover girls hockey team and is committed to play for the University of Minnesota.
With an interest in art, is that what Kaiser plans to have for a college major?
"I like business a lot and the stock market," said Kaiser, who has a 3.6 grade-point average. "I'd really like to take ceramics classes at UMD. I've taken college ceramics classes for two years and gotten my (college) credits and I've always said, 'No.' I want to take it in college."