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Besse wins Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award

by Mike G. Morreale
 Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret's

Senior right wing Grant Besse didn't conclude this year's state tournament in the same remarkable fashion he did in 2011-12, but he certainly did his share in the regular season to catch the eye of all those who watched him perform at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School in Minnesota.

The 5-foot-8.5, 177-pound Besse, No. 124 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top 2013 draft-eligible North American skaters, was awarded the Mr. Hockey Award on March 10 during the 29th ceremony at St. Paul's RiverCentre.

The Mr. Hockey Award is given to the outstanding senior high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota and is selected by a panel of National Hockey League Scouts, Division I coaches and selected media members from around the state.

"[Besse] isn't real big, but he's very strong on his skates and with how he moves," Central Scouting's David Gregory told "He just looks so comfortable getting around the ice. He does everything with such ease, like move the puck to teammates, shoot on the fly or move laterally to get around somebody.

"He doesn't have to slow down, stop or look. He's always constantly moving and when you combine that with one of the best wrist shots and releases in the draft, you understand why he almost put up 50 goals this season."

Besse was No. 187 on Central Scouting's final ranking prior to the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh, but wasn't chosen.

"He had injury problems last year and wasn't seen as much, but the one thing he did do over the off-season was put on good muscle mass and he improved his strength and core on the ice," Gregory said. "He was much stronger this season."

Five of the last eight Mr. Hockey Award winners were taken in the first round of their respective drafts (Nick Bjugstad, 2010; Nick Leddy, 2009; Ryan McDonagh, 2007; David Fischer, 2006; Brian Lee, 2005). Aaron Ness, a defenseman from Roseau High School, was chosen in the second round (No. 40) by the New York Islanders after earning Mr. Hockey as a senior in 2008 and Kyle Rau of Eden Prairie High School was honored in 2011 before being drafted in the third round (No. 91) by the Florida Panthers. Justin Kloos of Lakeville South won last year but went undrafted.

Additionally, David Zevnik of St. Thomas Academy, received the Frank Brimsek Award as the state's best senior goaltender.

Besse, who is committed to the University of Wisconsin in 2013-14, had 48 goals, including six hat tricks, and 76 points in 28 games for the Red Knights. He produced 163 goals and 272 points in 113 career games for his school.

"He reached another level this season," Benilde-St. Margare's coach Ken Pauly told The Star Tribune. "He put himself on the list of the greatest to ever play."

His most memorable moment came in the 2012 Class AA championship game against rival Hill Murray when he scored five times, including three shorthanded, to lead Benilde to a 5-1 victory. It marked the first time in state tournament history, spanning 68 years, that a player scored as many goals in a final. He finished his junior season with 52 goals. Besse is this third University of Wisconsin recruit to win Mr. Hockey, joining Tom Gorowsky (2004) and Ryan McDonagh (2007).

"He is a throwback," Pauly told The Pioneer Press. "He is what high school hockey should be all about, what it could be about. If more people embraced that philosophy, these kids would stick around. His character and commitment are off the charts."

The 5-foot-11 Zevnik, meanwhile, had a 19-2-2 record with a state-low 1.32 goals-against average and .938 save percentage, fifth-best in the state. He had five straight shutouts during the playoffs to help lead the Cadets to the Class A tournament title behind a 1.20 GAA and .939 save percentage in six games.

"He's probably the steadiest goalie we've ever had as far as getting better a little bit every year," St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Greg Vannelli told The Star Tribune.


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