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2023 Bantam Player of the Year Finalists

By Tony Scott , 03/15/23, 4:45PM CDT


Six players that stood out in all areas of the ice in the running for this year's award.

Tyden Bergeson - Moorhead

Tyden Bergeson, Moorhead Bantam AA

To someone wandering around the Cullen Hockey Center, it is entirely possible to hear Tyden Bergeson before seeing him. 

Those shotgun blasts coming from one of Moorhead's various ice sheets, the ones rocketing into the well-worn glass and pinging off the chipped iron of the goalposts, could be Bergeson working on his effortless release that leads to his missile-like shots. 

Grotesquely skilled, Bergeson tied for the North Region lead in scoring with four goals and eight points as Moorhead outscored Brainerd, Duluth East, and Grand Rapids 19-3 in East Grand Forks.

In events tracked by the scoring app GameSheet, Bergeson has racked up 16 goals and 35 points in 14 games.

AJ Francisco - Hermantown

AJ Francisco, Hermantown Bantam AA

Francisco is one of the more polished players at the Bantam AA level this season, combining his natural traits of speed and power with those hard-to-describe intangibles, the ones that have been used so often they're more cliche-y than cliches. 

Hockey IQ, hockey sense, heady player, ad nauseam. 

And while it's true that finding soft spots on the ice and showing an unmistakable understanding of hockey physics are strong attributes of Francisco's, but they shouldn't overshadow his raw hockey ability. 

Francisco factored into seven (three goals, four assists) of the Hawks' nine goals during North Region play, in which they eventually fell to Duluth East in the consolation bracket.

In November, Francisco tied for the Battle for the Blue Ox scoring leader with five goals and 11 points, helping the Hawks to a 3-2 record over the weekend. 

Logan Lutner - Osseo Maple Grove

Logan Lutner, Osseo-Maple Grove

One of the most dynamic defensemen from the Osseo-Maple Grove program since Brock Faber roamed the blue line at Maple Grove Community Center. Some observers say they even resemble one another.

The Leafbirds only allowed 102 goals this season in 58 games (1.75 GAA). Due to solid play from Lutner both on the back-end defensively and with his athleticism to break the puck out of the zone effortlessly.

Lutner led all OMG defenders in points during district play. He tallied 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) in 16 games during the regular season. Logan had two goals and two assists in six games at the prestigious Moose Goheen Bantam AA Tournament, where the Leafbirds took third place.   

Eli Molde - Wayzata

Eli Molde, Wayzata Bantam AA

Like Kris Lindahl billboards and Burger King ads on YouTube, Molde is everywhere...on the ice, that is. 

Along with Hermantown's AJ Francisco, Molde tied for the scoring lead at November's Battle for the Blue Ox with seven goals and 11 points, leading Wayzata to three wins in five games in Moorhead. In District play, Molde racked up 11 goals and 18 points.  

The crafty Molde registered a goal and four points during West Region play, leading the Trojans to the "backdoor" championship game before falling 4-3 in overtime against Minnetonka.

Molde helped the Trojans score 200 goals this season as a team, and the group finished with a 30-29-2 record. 

Casey Vandertop - Edina

Casey Vandertop, Edina Bantam AA

There may not be a hotter Bantam AA team in the state right now than Edina, and the primary catalyst is Casey Vandertop, the next in a long, long line of talented Edina forwards. 

The Hornets cruised through the South Region with three wins, outscoring Champlin Park, Rosemount, and Stillwater 19-0. Vandertop potted two goals and two assists during the team's run through Regions, and has played a critical offensive role on a Hornet team that hasn't lost since January and has outscored its opposition this season by over 200 goals.

Vandertop proved to be a passing specialist during District play this season, handing out 16 assists and totaling 25 points in 16 games.  

The Hornets are 45-5-3 entering the Bantam AA State Tournament.  

Zac Zimmerman - Moorhead

Zac Zimmerman, Moorhead Bantam AA

Named the Battle for the Blue Ox's Most Valuable Player, Zimmerman centers the Spuds' top forward line, which could rival the first line of many high school varsity teams.

That is not a joke.  

Teamed with fellow Bantam Player of the Year finalist Tyden Bergeson, Zimmerman has helped the Spuds to a gaudy 43-5-5 record this season, with the Spuds outscoring their opponents 301-87. During the Blue Ox, Zimmerman notched five goals and a pair of assists, tallying a hat trick and a helper in the Spuds' championship win over Rogers.

In addition to his offensive production, Zimmerman is a deft passer and a wizard in the face-off circle.   

Past Winners

2014 Winner - Casey Mittelstadt

Year Player Team College Commitment
2022 Sam Laurila Moorhead Undecided
2021 Teddy Townsend Eden Prairie Minnesota
2020 Zam Plante Hermantown Minnesota Duluth
2019 Max Burkholder Chaska Chanhassen Colorado College
2018 Kyle Kukkonen Osseo-Maple Grove Michigan Tech
2018 Brock Faber Osseo-Maple Grove Minnesota
2017 Jake Braccini Buffalo St. Thomas
2016 Ethan Frisch Moorhead North Dakota
2015 Gavin Hain Grand Rapids North Dakota
2014 Casey Mittelstadt Eden Prairie Minnesota
2013 Ryan Zuhlsdorf Edina Minnesota

2018 Co-Players of the Year Kyle Kukkonen (L) and Brock Faber (R)

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