Player: Chase Cheslock
College commitment: St. Thomas
If the brain trust at MIT had a mind to create the perfect defenseman in a lab, the specimen that results might look a lot like Chase Cheslock.
It might play just like him, too.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound captain of a highly talented Rogers team is in his third varsity season, and with a little luck in the postseason, could eclipse 100 career points from the blueline. Cheslock currently has four goals and 28 points this season, averaging 1.12 points per game.
Perhaps more impressive than his offensive production, the physically intimidating St. Thomas commit has only spent 19 minutes in the penalty box during the 2022-2023 campaign.
Player: Jake Fisher
Team: Cretin-Derham Hall
College commitment: Northern Michigan
In a season for the Raiders that has featured more losses (nine) than in the past two seasons combined (seven), the one constant in the purple-and-gold has been Jake Fisher.
The Northern Michigan commit leads the Raiders in scoring with 31 goals and 56 points, setting career highs in both categories as of Feb. 21. As of this writing, Fisher has recorded at least one goal in his last six games, and the crafty forward has scored two or more goals in an impressive 11 times this season through 26 games.
Fisher has proven himself on both sides of the puck, tying for the team lead in shorthanded goals with three and using his speed to disrupt opposing power plays in the defensive zone.
Player: Andy Larson
Team: Duluth Denfeld
College commitment: N/A
While Larson was posting three goals and nine points in 10 games during his second stint with Team Kowalski’s of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League, the rest of the state was given a glimpse of what was to come for the Duluth Denfeld senior.
Sure, Larson racked up 23 goals and 53 points last season as a junior and had played 21 games with Team Kowalski’s prior to the 2021-2022 season. But this time around, he tallied as many points during UMHSEL play in half the games as he did in 2021.
Likewise, Larson has already surpassed his high school numbers from last year, currently pacing the Hunters in goals (35) and assists (33) for a cool 68 points heading into the Section 7A semifinals.
Player: Jackson Nevers
College commitment: Minnesota
Nevers’s season totals of 18 goals and 31 points don’t rank near the top of the state’s scoring leaders, and he’s not exactly threatening the illustrious Edina record books (yet) with just over 60 career points.
But all Nevers does is win face-offs, puck battles, and foot races. All he does is backcheck hard, hit harder, and navigate the neutral zone the way a slalom skier dominates the downhill slopes. In the star-laden Tradition Holiday Invitational, Nevers was named the event’s Most Valuable Player, scoring six times against the likes of Class AA State Tournament hopefuls Moorhead, St. Thomas Academy, and Rogers.
The rare freshman to crack the Hornets’ varsity lineup, Nevers still has a full season of high school eligibility after this season.
Player: Jayson Shaugabay
College commitment: Minnesota Duluth
There isn’t a cliche about hockey purity that you can’t attach to Jayson Shaugabay.
He plays a free, creative style. His skill is off the charts. His understanding of the ice - the physical shape of the playing surface - is unparalleled among the state’s high school hockey players.
He’s led the Warriors to an undefeated regular season, winning 24 straight games before a tie with Sartell-St. Stephen, and the Warriors seem poised for another run to the Class A State Tournament championship this March. Should they advance that far, Shaugabay is all but guaranteed to surpass the 300-point mark for his career, a threshold he surely would have already crossed were it not for the COVID-shortened 2020-2021 season.
With his 288 career points, the Minnesota Duluth commit is within striking distance of Dave Spehar (304) on the all-time scoring list. Surpassing Spehar would make Shaugabay fifth among all recorded Minnesota high school hockey players.
For now, Shaugabay has 29 goals and 80 points, and the Warriors are the No. 1 seed in the Section 8A playoffs. After the high school season, Shaugabay will join the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers for the remainder of the USHL season.
Player: Gavyn Thoreson
College commitment: St. Cloud State
Thoreson’s playing style most closely matches Shaugabay’s among Player of the Year finalists, with the Huskies’ playmaking maestro showing a similar vision as the Warroad star.
In addition to those highlight-reel passes and no-look dishes, Thoreson has set a career-high this season with 34 goals for the Huskies, and his 79 total points lead the defending Class AA state champions heading into the second round of playoffs. Thoreson is particularly productive on the power play, scoring six times and adding 15 assists with the man advantage this season.
While the vast majority of the high school skaters could only dream of a five-point game, Thoreson has reached that number seven times as of Feb. 21.
In nine games with the Waterloo Black Hawks, Thoreson registered nine points and spent time with the Black Hawks’ power play unit. The St. Cloud State commit will return to the (grateful) Black Hawks when his Andover season ends.