Prep boys hockey: A second Plante grows in Hermantown
After Hawks’ center Zam Plante hurt his shoulder, younger brother Max has stepped into Zam’s shoes and has nine assists in six games since the injury.
About five minutes into the second period of Hermantown’s 6-0 win Wednesday over Orono, sophomore center Max Plante found junior forward Wyatt Carlson ahead of the defense.
He sent the puck up for Carlson, who put the shot past Orono goalie Brock Peyton.
“Wyatt’s one of the fastest guys on our team,” Max said. “You’ve just got to get him the puck and he’ll bury it.”
Max found Carlson twice and hit Kade Kohanski for a score in the win over Orono. He had assists on both goals in the Hawks’ 4-2 loss to Cretin-Derham Hall Dec. 23 in St. Paul.
In fact, since Zam Plante injured his shoulder in a game against Wayzata Dec. 10, Max has stepped into his older brother’s role on Hermantown’s top line and has nine assists in six games. He also leads the Hawks in total points with 13.
Zam, one of the top prospects in Minnesota, burst on the scene last season by leading Hermantown with 29 goals and 32 assists last season and was on his way to another stellar season with six points in two games before being sidelined with what Hawks’ coach Patrick Andrews termed an “unnecessary hit.”
Andrews knew losing Zam for an extended period would be tough, but said Max is a “phenomenal talent” and isn’t surprised the sophomore is thriving, despite being new to Hermantown’s varsity squad this season.
“Max is so gifted and skilled and smart that when he stepped into that spot, he’s been able to keep that mojo going and still get some pucks to Wyatt and Kade, so we can still score,” Andrews said.
Zam — a Minnesota Duluth commit — admits to a little sibling rivalry with Max, but he isn’t surprised at the quality of his brother’s play the past few weeks.
“I’d like to say he’s stepped up, but I think he’s just kind of played his normal game,” Zam said. “He’s just playing at the top of his game, like he does all the time.”
Not only is Max playing well offensively, he’s a strong player for Hermantown in both zones despite being one of the smallest players out there at just 5 feet, 6 inches tall.
“Max plays 200 feet,” Andrews said. “He’s great offensively, but he comes back — he’s the first guy back defensively. Even though he gives up a few inches and 30 pounds to most high school kids, he doesn’t get beat defensively because he’s so smart and so good with the stick.”
Zam said Max’s best asset as a hockey player is his intelligence on the ice.
“He’s just so smart,” Zam said. “He’s a step ahead of everybody, he knows what the play is going to be before anyone else does.”
Max and his father, UMD assistant Derek Plante, credited playing in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last summer with helping him adjust quickly.
“That really helped him make that transition from Bantams to high school,” Derek said. “When he got to the high school season, he was more or less ready to go because he’d been playing against some of the better high school players in the state for almost a month and a half.”
The increased exposure for Max is going to increase college coaches’ interest when they are allowed to begin contacting him Saturday about where he wants to play after leaving the Hermantown program.
Andrews said the recruiting process can be stressful to players, but Max has a couple things going for him. His brother was recruited last year and his father spent time playing in the National Hockey League. What’s more, grandfather Bruce Plante coached Hermantown for nearly 30 years and spent several years scouting for NHL teams.
“It’s an amazing, amazing opportunity, but I think it’s also a lot of stress to handle mentally and stay positive with it,” Andrews said. “Watching our guys go through it the last five or six years, it’s pretty remarkable just how well they handle it. They’ve got good heads on their shoulders and Max is that way too. He’s such a great kid and I’m sure deep down he knows what he wants and he’ll make the best decision for what he wants.”
Max said he is trying to take everything in stride and “go with the flow” as college recruiting and the United States Hockey League draft looms. The USHL is a junior hockey league where Zam played for the Chicago Steel this fall.
With just one goal so far, scoring is just about the only thing Max hasn’t done on the ice this season, but Andrews thinks that might be the way he likes it.
“Max is an incredible playmaker and amazingly selfless,” Andrews said. “He enjoys assists as much as, if not more so than, scoring.”
While Max certainly does like his playmaking role, he is looking forward to Zam’s projected return in mid-January. The elder Plante will move back to his role at center and Max will move to a wing position when the pair share the ice.
“I’m just excited to see how it goes and just keep winning games,” Max said. “And with Zam coming back, maybe I’ll score some more goals.”