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Minn. players top Junior A, B, high school list

by Dan Rosen
Minnesota high schools are represented well in the new list put out by NHL Central Scouting that rates the top players from North American Junior "A" and Junior "B" leagues as well as U.S. High Schools.

Seven players from the State of Hockey were rated as "A" players on Central Scouting's 2009 Fall watch list. Of the 130 players Central Scouting rated, including 64 from junior leagues and another 66 from U.S. high schools, only 10 were given an "A" rating.

An "A" rating is a signal to the 30 NHL clubs that they should be looking at the players as potential first- or second-round draft picks in 2010. A "B" rating means the player will likely fall somewhere in the third to fifth rounds, and a "C" rating is for potential late round picks.

Forty-three players received a "B" rating while 74 were given a "C" rating and another three were listed in a "limited viewing" category.

Along with their seven "A" players, Minnesota is also represented by 11 "B" players and another 19 "C" players giving it a total of 37 high schoolers that Central Scouting believes teams should keep an eye on throughout the 2009-10 season.

Forwards Joe Basaraba (Shattuck St. Mary's), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine), Jason Clark (Shattuck St. Mary's), Max Gardiner (Minnetonka) and Brock Nelson (Warroad), along with defenseman Mark Alt (Cretin-Derham) and goalie Zane Gothberg (Thief River Falls) represent Minnesota's "A" players.

Gardiner is the brother of Jake Gardiner, who Anaheim selected with the 17th pick in the 2008 Entry Draft. Max is committed to play next season at the University of Minnesota along with Alt and Bjugstad. Basaraba is slated to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, while Nelson and Gothberg have committed to the University of North Dakota.

Clark is undecided.

"He sees the ice very well and he's a tough kid to play against," Jake Gardiner told about his younger brother. "He's got that really good work ethic. We both got that from our father. I remember my father and me shooting at him when he was younger -- he'd always play goalie, but not anymore. He's really grown into his position as forward."

Bjugstad, who is a 6-5, 190-pound junior center, is trying to accelerate his education to graduate a year early so he could join the Gophers' program. He led Blaine with 31 goals and 27 assists as a sophomore last season.

"There are tough days where I feel like I need a break," Bjugstad told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "But you look ahead and you think about how much you have going. I try to take all this in a good way."

The other "A" rated players are goalie Sam Brittain of Canmore in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, forward Charlie Coyle of South Shore in the Eastern Junior Hockey League and forward Kevin Hayes of Nobles High School in Massachusetts.

Coyle is committed to Boston University and Hayes to Boston College.

Here is the complete list with ratings compiled by NHL Central Scouting.

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