Call it a hockey celebration, a showcase or coming-out party. The first Minnesota High School All-Star Prospects Game aims to be all three.
About 48 hours before the 2018-19 boys' hockey season commences, 40 of the state's top players will skate onto the TRIA Rink ice in downtown St. Paul for a 2:30 p.m. Saturday game. The audience will include scouts from the National Hockey League as well as college and junior hockey ranks.
The event, about a year in the making, is reminiscent of the Maroon and Gold All-Star series that started in the mid-1980 and ran for about a decade. Reintroducing an all-star event is good for players' profiles and ensuring the health of high school hockey, said Anne Butters Anderson, an administrator with State of Hockey, a subsidiary of the Minnesota Wild.
"One parent told me, 'This is something that needed to happen in this state,' " Butters Anderson said. "The reason behind it, and the mission of State of Hockey, is to work with the various partners to continue to keep the community association hockey model in place and build strong high school programs."
An official NHL Central Scouting event, the game provides players a wider audience in a local setting. Tickets are $10 for adults. Those age 18 and under get in free. Some tickets remained as of Thursday afternoon.
"It's a great idea and the timing is great," Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. "It's a way to kick-start high school hockey and showcase what's to come this winter."
Players will compete for Team Blue or Team Red, and each is a mix of metro and outstate players. A few players will be competing against their high school teammates. Four members of defending Class 2A champion Minnetonka will play: Jack Bayless and Josh Luedtke for Team Red, and Grant Docter and Charlie Glockner for Team Blue.
"I still think these are unbelievable rosters," said Mike MacMillan, executive director of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association. "The players are excited to be recognized."
A few high-profile names are missing. Only Chaska defenseman Mike Koster, one of six Minnesota high school players listed as B- or C-level skaters on the NHL Central Scouting preliminary players to watch list in October, is playing. An injury sidelined Duluth East forward and B-rated skater Ryder Donovan.
"These are the kids willing and able to participate," said Jon Ammerman, Moorhead coach and coaches association president. "At least it's a starting point, a showcase of what we have in terms of the best players in the state. We want to make sure we're staying relevant and ahead of the curve and this game is a good opportunity for us to do so."
Other presenting partners for the event are the Let's Play Hockey newspaper, Minnesota Hockey, College Hockey, Inc., and the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association.