Wiz Wyatt, circa 1973. Photo courtesy Harvard University
Each year YHH watches hundreds of games, hosts tournaments all over the state, and collects some great information on thousands of players. There are so many great stories of so many great kids.
In 2013, we began handing out the Wiz Wyatt Player of the Year Award as a way to recognize players for athletic, academic and leadership achievement. Our criteria for the award is pretty simple.
The award is NOT given to the best player in the state. When you read the accomplishments of Wiz Wyatt, you will see that he was a rare and talented athlete who was respected both on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom. I was fortunate to have been coached by Wiz, and he was a tremendous balance of teacher, mentor and friend.
Wiz Wyatt was a highly-decorated three-sport star at Minneapolis West in the early 1970's. After graduating from West, he went on to Harvard and played hockey for the Crimson for his collegiate career. Post-graduation, Wiz coached youth hockey in Minneapolis and Edina both as a non-parent and parent volunteer. He currently lives in Edina with his wife Jane and is the father of four adult children Susan, Mary, Michael, and Jessie.
This year, courtesy of EliteProspects Shop and KAV, Youth Hockey Hub is awarding a customized KAV Helmet to the winner of the award in recognition of their performances on the ice over this past season. The KAV Helmets represent the latest cutting-edge technology for the on-ice safety of players, coaches, and officials."
Player: Cole Braunshausen
Hometown: Lake Elmo
School: Gentry Academy
Sports: Hockey (AA), Baseball (AAA), Soccer (Traveling) and Cross Country
Parents: Sarah and Andy
To describe Cole Braunshausen, you need to search your thesaurus for synonyms of "energy" and "enthusiasm". All over the ice, and now we are learning, all over the ball field as well. Cole does it all. He plays four sports and has a 3.73 GPA at Gentry Academy.
The last three summers, Cole's Lake Elmo AAA baseball team has won the state tournament. On the ice, Cole's Stillwater hockey teams have won a lot as well, picking up titles at the 2018 Squirtacular and 2019 Lumberjack Cup.
"Cole has developed his leadership skills by not only focusing on his personal contributions to the game but also supporting and lifting up his teammates in the face of adversity," Stillwater coach Billy Kohn said. "Cole is the type of person and player you want on your team no matter what sport you want to play."
photo: Nancy Oehlke
Player: Andy Brown
School: Hubert Olson Middle School
Team: Bloomington Jefferson
Sports: Hockey (AA), Baseball (AAA)
Parents: Molly and Adam
Andy Brown makes a strong case for being the first-ever Jaguar to win the Wiz. Andy is a standout 4.0 student at Olson Middle School in Bloomington where he takes honors courses and plays in the band. Outside of school, Andy plays hockey and baseball at a very high level. This year he helped lead the Jags back to the PeeWee AA State Tournament for the first time since 2015.
The explosive defender plays hard in all areas of the ice and has a rocket of a shot. "Andy is an exceptional young man," said the always-classy Jefferson head coach Mark Stenbeck said. "He has proven himself to be a skilled athlete, thoughtful teammate, dedicated student and a leader both on and off the ice. It has been a pleasure coaching Andy for three years."
Player: AJ Francisco
School: Hermantown Middle School
Team: Hermantown Hawks
Sports: Hockey (AA), Baseball (AAA), Soccer (Travel)
Parents: Bridget and Jon
AJ Francisco does everything 100%. On the rink, he's a talented player who can play any of the five skater positions. In the classroom, he's a straight-A, 4.0 student. Like his neighbor Zam Plante, who won the award in 2018, Francisco plays several sports including traveling baseball and soccer.
His coach Brian LeBlanc may have said it best when asked for his thoughts on Francisco. "He makes coaching easy," LeBlanc said. "AJ plays the game right. My favorite part about his game is his compete level. It's off the charts. A ton of kids can skate, shoot and handle the puck, (but) not a lot of them play the game hard. He leads by example. When kids see him moving the puck, working to get open and back-checking. It wears off on everyone else on the team."
Player: Henry Sampair
School: Mahtomedi Middle School
Sports: Hockey (AA), Soccer (Premier)
Parents: Cristin and Jesse
The last name Sampair is synonymous with hockey and Mahtomedi. With dad Jesse and uncle Brandon being Mr. Hockey finalists its no surprise Henry Sampair has excelled at the game. He has also excelled in the classroom boasting a 3.73 GPA at an honors level. Off the ice, Henry is a great two-way player in Soccer for the St. Croix Soccer Club.
Henry helped lead the Zephyrs team this year to a very successful 42-11-4 record.
"Henry's unselfish approach and desire to make those around him make playing with him and coaching him such a joy," said Mahtomedi coach Nate Demars. "Don't let Henry's mild manner and even keel fool you - he is a beast to play against and a competitor; willing to do whatever it takes for the success of the team."
Player: Mason West
School: Southview Middle School
Sports: Hockey (AA), Baseball (AAA), Football
Parents: Julie and Mike
You know you have a Wiz Wyatt-type athlete on your hands when opposing hockey parents see his athletic prowess in baseball and football. On top of a 3.75 GPA at Southview Middle School, West was chosen to participate in their Peer Insights program where he mentors a special education student each week throughout the year.
On the ice, the number one Hornets are undefeated (31-01) heading into the state tournament. "Mason has really come into his own this season as a player and a leader," Edina coach Jeff Johnson said. "His work ethic goes along great with his size and skill."
The 2020 Big Pumpkin MVP has his sights set on the Hornets first Peewee AA state title since 2014.
2020 Winner Andrew O'Neill
|2017||Brody Lamb||Dodge County|
|2016||Kyle Kukkonen||Osseo Maple Grove|
|2016||Landen Gunderson*||Osseo Maple Grove|
|2015||Matt Gleason||St. Paul|
|2014||Brock Faber*||Osseo Maple Grove|
|2013||Jack Olsen||Lakeville South|
2017 Winner, Brody Lamb (Dodge County)