What a long, strange year it's been.
But here we are—March of 2021. Almost a year since Coronavirus essentially put the world on its heels and did the same with the hockey community.
A year has passed, and we've emerged, and this spring, the Youth Hockey Hub has expanded its list of finalists for the Girls High School Hockey Player of the Year Award. It's this time of year, with season-ending tournaments on the horizon and prep careers nearing their conclusions, that reminds us all that some things never change.
On a personal note, crafting this list has been a grounding experience for the YHH staff. You crunch numbers, examine the strength of opponents, go fishing for extra information on candidates. In a world where everything comes with the caution tape of hundred layers of context, it has been a refreshing change to simply view credentials as they are, regardless of the always-moving goalposts of the world.
Thanks for coming along with us on this wild ride and being a part of our girls' high school hockey coverage.
It's been our privilege to share our observations with you.
*All team records and player stats are as of March 7, 2021
Player: Dani Burgen
Team: Chisago Lakes
College commitment: Minnesota State
Stuck in a section with perennial power Breck for the bulk of her career, Burgen may not be as familiar a name as some of the other players on this list. However, the Chisago Lakes forward's resume stacks up with anyone else's in the state.
Burgen, who models her playing style after Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, has 20 goals and 40 points for the No. 3-1A Wildcats this year, running her career totals to 78 goals and 170 points.
Away from the high school game, Burgen captured a gold medal with Team USA during the 2020 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championships, and helped Team USA win the 2019 Under-18 series against Canada, notching three goals and four points in three games.
Dani Burgen, Chisago Lakes
Player: Hannah Chorske
College commitment: Harvard
Chorske has been a varsity regular since her freshman season, and has captured two state championships and advanced to three state title games. In short, she's a winner.
A stabilizing force up front for the Hornets, Chorske has 10 goals and 20 points this season and surpassed 100 career points earlier this season. In nearly four years with the program, Chorske has totaled 51 goals and 117 points.
The 5-foot-10 forward will head to the Ivy League next season to play for Harvard and Crimson coach Katey Stone. Chorske also considered Princeton before finalizing her decision to play for Harvard.
Hannah Chorske, Edina
Player: Emma Conner
College commitment: Minnesota
From competing in the famed Quebec International Peewee Tournament to lighting up scoreboards across the state of hockey, Conner has undoubtedly made her hockey mark during her youth and prep careers.
Conner led last year's Class 2A state runner-up Hornets in scoring with 31 goals and 55 points and leads the Hornets again in the same category with 27 goals and 35 points for career totals of 58 goals and 90 points. The gifted scorer will take her talents to Dinkytown next season, and should fit right in with the always-talented Golden Gophers.
Emma Conner, Edina
Player: Rory Guilday
College commitment: Cornell
Long considered one of the top defenders in her age group, the Cornell commit is one of the critical reasons Minnetonka has maintained a level of excellence this season after graduating several key players from last year's team that advanced to the third-place game of the Class 2A State Tournament.
Guilday's veteran leadership has the Skippers at 8-3-3 this year with a young lineup teeming with potential. Like Peschel, her six goals and 15 points are not an accurate representation of what she brings to the ice, including poise, a mastery of puck distribution, and being nearly unbeatable in one-on-one situations.
Guilday won gold with Team USA during the 2020 Under-18 Women's World Championships, finishing as plus-two for the tournament.
If that's not enough, Guilday can also juggle and ride a unicycle.
Rory Guilday, Minnetonka
Player: Hailey Hansen
College commitment: Uncommitted
The youngest player on this list and the only goaltender, Hansen has been the Bengals' backbone this season, playing every minute of the 2021 campaign while posting some truly spectacular numbers.
Hansen has a goals-against-average of 2.12 and a save percentage of .937 to go along with three shutouts, giving the Bengals a chance in nearly every game despite the team averaging roughly two goals per game. Still an underclassman, Hansen and the Bengals could grow into Class 2A, Section 5 favorites with a little more seasoning on the blue line and within the forward crop.
Hansen is one of just a small handful Class 2A goaltenders that has faced more than 500 shots this season, and ranks first in save percentage among goalies that have faced at least 500 shots.
Hailey Hansen, Blaine
Player: Peyton Hemp
College commitment: Minnesota
Last year's Player of the Year is back among the finalists, and exactly zero hockey fans in Minnesota should be surprised.
The Minnesota commit leads the state among Class 2A skaters scoring with 20 goals and 52 points, giving her 104 goals and 225 career points. Typically, the Huskies play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state in addition to facing the strongest teams in the Northwest Suburban Conference twice per year, making her career totals all the more impressive.
Hemp led the Huskies in postseason scoring last season with eight goals and 15 points en route to the Class 2A state title. Like Krause, Hemp was a member of the 2018 Tier I U-14 national champion Green Giants.
Along with fellow finalists Dani Burgen and Rory Guilday, Hemp was a member of the gold medal team during the 2020 IIHF U-18 Women's World Championships.
Peyton Hemp, Andover
Player: Geno Hendrickson
College commitment: Franklin Pierce
Hendrickson will finish her career as one of the state's all-time leading scorers, cruising into the final week of the 2021 regular season with 104 career goals and 279 points. Unsurprisingly, the crafty forward is one of the state's leading scorers in this abbreviated season with 23 goals and 51 points for the No. 2-1A Warriors.
In five seasons, Hendrickson has never totaled less than 17 points, and has never missed a Class 1A State Tournament in her time with the Warrior program. She's never far from an arena at any given time, working hockey camps in her area and also officiating games.
Geno Hendrickson, Warroad
Player: Vivian Jungels
College commitment: Minnesota
One skater in a long line of talented Jungels siblings, the junior defender Vivian, may be the most talented of all.
With one year of high school eligibility remaining, Jungels has a chance to finish her career as one of the highest-scoring defenders in state history, currently sitting at 35 goals and 120 points in her three seasons as a varsity top-four defender for the Hornets. Jungels currently has 10 goals and 34 points this season.
From starting her career at age five playing with the boys at Edina-based Minnesota Made, to winning back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019, Jungels has little left to prove in her prep career.
Vivian Jungels, Edina
Player: Gabby Krause
College commitment: Minnesota Duluth
Krause likes consistency. For the past three seasons, the Minnesota Duluth commit has been unavailable for most spring break excursions, preferring to spend her months of March in downtown St. Paul, playing in the Class 2A State Tournament.
Krause and the Huskies finally broke through last season, winning the school's first state championship in hockey, with Krause scoring the eventual game-winning goal in the finals against Edina.
Krause has 19 goals and 38 points this season, 60 goals and 128 points in her career, and has been a varsity contributor since she stepped on the ice at the high school level. She has had multiple stints with the USA Hockey Girls National Development Camp at various levels, and captured a national championship at the 2018 U-14 Tier I Nationals.
Gabby Krause, Andover
Player: Emma Peschel
Team: Benilde-St. Margaret's
College commitment: Ohio State
A rugged defender often tasked with guarding the opposition's best player, Peschel embodies the term "shutdown defender." Peschel's physical, defense-first mindset has made her one of the premier blueliners in the state, and one of the best bodyguards a goaltender could ever ask for.
Peschel has five goals and 10 points this season, but her scoring numbers do a poor job of highlighting her impact on the ice. She has participated in the Girls High School Elite League for multiple seasons and is verbally committed to Ohio State.
Emma Peschel, Benilde-St. Margaret's