St. Cloud, MN – A new era of St. Cloud State hockey emerged in 2018 with the hiring of Brett Larson as head coach to replace Bob Motzko and his thirteen years with the program. Three years later, the team continues to reflect the personality of the new coaching regime with less than half of the players having ties to the previous coaching staff. Gone are outstanding collegiate players such as Jimmy Schuldt, Jack Ahcan, John Lizotte, Blake Lizotte, the Poehling brothers, Patrick Newell and Robby Jackson. Holdovers include Easton Brodzinski, David Hrenak, Luke Jaycox, Kevin Fitzgerald, Tyler Anderson and Will Hammer. Others such as Micah Miller, Nolan Walker, Spencer Meier, Sam Hentges, Brendan Bushy and Nick Perbix commited to usher in the new era with coach Larson.
This season another group of players emerge. It’s a diverse group with experience as opposed to youth as it includes two senior transfers and four veteran junior hockey players. The average age of this year’s class of players is 22 vs last year’s class with an average age of 20. This group also includes tremendous leadership with all of these players captaining their teams during their hockey career. With that said, let’s take a look at the Huskies first-year players for the 2020-21 season (listed in alphabetic order):
Jared Cockrell – 5’11” 185 (Kents Hill, ME) Forward
Cockrell, a graduate transfer from Colgate University of the ECAC is the first ever rostered SCSU player from the state of Maine. The 5’11” 185 pound right-shooting forward and two-time assistant captain of the Colgate Raiders completed his degree in economics at Colgate and is a native of Kents Hill, Maine. He played three seasons of prep hockey at the Kents Hill School and blew up the New England Prep School League with 48 goals and 73 assists for 121 points in 80 games over three seasons. He took his game to the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) and again proved his offensive ability compiling 61 goals and 62 assists for 123 points in 115 games. In 2014-15, he finished the season 6th in goals and 10th in points in the AJHL and in 2015-16 was second in goals with 36 and 7th in points with 68 as the Bandits captured the championship of the league.
He originally committed to the Air Force Academy in January of 2015 but changed his commitment to Colgate University in December of 2015. An assistant captain for the Raiders in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Cockrell played a total of 112 games the past four seasons primarily at right wing. He scored 23 goals and 29 assists for 52 points. He sustained a season ending injury after seven games in 2018-19 allowing him an additional year of eligibility. In 2019-20 Cockrell finished fourth in team points with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points including two game-winning goals. A clutch player for the Raiders, he had five career game-winning goals for Colgate.
Coaches Comments: “He looks and reminds of former Huskies Jack and Nick Poehling. He has a dogged determination to get to the dirty areas.”
CenterIceView Comments: Cockrell will bring speed, skill and grit to the Huskies and should prosper on the larger surface of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Cockrell is described as a player who thinks the game well, can play at a high pace and likes to shoot the puck. He’s an excellent student and good team leader. Were it not for the fact that he is a transfer student, he’d probably be under consideration to be a team captain. Expect playing time on one of the top three lines and were it not for the shortened season may have had an opportunity for double-digit goals.
Seamus Donohue – 6’0″ 185, (North Oaks, MN) Defense
Donohue, who played the last three seasons for Michigan Tech University of the WCHA completed his undergraduate studies and as a “graduate” transfer will be eligible immediately for the 2020-21 season.
The 6’0″ 185 pound left-shooting defenseman, was one of the top defenseman for the MTU Huskies and was an assistant captain in 2019-20. A stalwart in the lineup, he appeared in 117 career games for the Huskies showing his durability. He was 10th on the squad in points with 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points this past season. This included one game-winning goal and he was +1 for the season.
Donohue was named the team’s top freshman in 2017-18 with 16 points and the team’s top defensive player as a sophomore with 1 goals and 21 assists for 22 points.
Prior to the MTU Huskies, Donohue played 40 games under former SCSU Assistant Coach Fred Harbinson for Penticton of the BCHL coincidentally, on the same team with SCSU’s Easton Brodzinski. Donohue also played 45 games for Wichita Falls of the North American Hockey League where he captained the team and had 4 goals and 28 assists for 32 points. Donohue was also captain of his high school squad, St. Thomas Academy where he was a teammate of former SCSU goaltender, David Zevnik. He was a four-year player for St. Thomas Academy and a member of two Minnesota State High School Championship teams.
Coaches Comments: “Donohue can move the puck and skate and will be a top-four defenseman for us this season. He can be a power play player and we’ll find somewhere to use him on the man-advantage.”
CenterIceView Comments: Donohue will help take the sting out of the loss of puck-moving defenseman Jack Ahcan. Those would be difficult shoes to fill but it does give the Huskies an element of offense back at the blue line. In Donohue, the Huskies get a good skating and mobile defenseman, that defends well and can be inserted in the power play. He should immediately be a top-four defenseman for the Huskies. A durable player, expect to see Donohue as a regular in the lineup the entire season.
Jack Johnston – 5’10” 170 (Saint Paul, MN) Forward
Johnston, a 5’10” 170 pound right-shooting forward from Saint Paul, MN completed his third season with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL in 2019-20 and was the team Captain. Coach Trevor Stewart commented “Jack was the leader of our team. He has been a tremendous asset for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs the last three years and will be sorely missed. His combination of speed, skill, and intensity will translate well to NCAA hockey and we look forward to tracking his progress.”
The native of Saint Paul played four seasons for St. Paul Academy who competed in the Independent Metro Athletic Conference. In his last three seasons with the Spartans, Johnston accumulated 69 goals and 66 assists for 135 points in 97 games. In his final season in 2016-17 he had 28 goals and added 27 assists for 52 points in 27 games. He also competed in the Minnesota High School Elite League for Team Southwest and posted 4 goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 20 games.
Johnston joined Fairbanks of the NAHL for the 2017-18 season and was a very productive offensive player accumulating 49 goals and 66 points for 115 points in 155 games over three seasons. During that time, he competed in two NAHL Top Prospects games and saw his team advance to the Robertson Cup Championship game in 2019. This past season, Johnston finished third in goals, assists and total points with 18-27-25. Additionally, he had 12 multi-point games including 3 game-winning goals and 3 short-handed goals.
Coaches Comments: “Jack Johnston had a good junior hockey career. He’s quick and quick on the puck. He’s been a pleasant surprise for us so far. He’s placed himself in a good spot to challenge for ice time.”
CenterIceView Comments: In Johnston, the Huskies get a good character player with strong leadership qualities. He plays with good energy and skill and should fit in quite nicely with the culture at St. Cloud State. Expect to see Johnston battling for a position on the fourth line to start the season much like Thomas Rocco did in 2019-20. If given the opportunity, don’t underestimate his ability to get in the scoring column. Johnston is another of those four-year players that will keep improving each season and will be a staple in the lineup by the time he is a junior or senior.
Veeti Miettinen – 5’9″ 160 (Espoo, Finland) Forward
Since 2012-13 , the St. Cloud State University Huskies have had a Finnish player on their roster each season. That trend will continue into the immediate future with the addition of speedy, left-shooting forward Veeti Miettinen. The 5’9″ 160 native of Espoo, Finland skated with the U20 Blues in the Jr. A SM-Liiga League in 2019-20 logging 42 goals and 31 assists for 73 points in 52 games. The goals sets a league record and his points total led the league. In three seasons he’s posted an incredible 80 goals and 78 assists for 158 points in 138 games. He’s also built quite a resume in International play for Finland since 2016 having participated on the U16 to U20 teams including the World Junior Championships in 2019 and the World Under 17 Championships in 2017. In all, in international play, Miettinen has compiled 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 56 games.
The Elite Prospects Draft Guide described “Miettinen has a quality release that helps generate an effective and effortless wrist shot. He’s a real power play threat from the half-wall. Miettinen can find players in the seam and in the slot. He has good edges, and he flashes very good speed. He can change his speed and surprise defenders with quick bursts, with good four-step acceleration.”
Recently, Miettinen was the 168th overall selection in the 6th Round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
CenterIceView Comments: The Huskies hit the jackpot with Miettinen securing a can’t miss star at the collegiate level. The only issue at the moment is physically getting him to the United States as there has been VISA issues due to COVID-19. In the meantime, Miettinen is currently taking online courses through SCSU. Miettinen will join fellow countryman Janni Kranilla who was perhaps the top first-year forward for the Huskies last season. Miettinen probably slipped in the recent NHL Draft due to his size but it will be no hindrance to success at the collegiate level. He should be one of the top first-year players in the NCHC this season and the Huskies sorely need his offensive talent.
Joe Molenaar – 6′ 0″ 181 (Minnetonka, MN) Forward
Molenaar, a Minnetonka native follows a line of players from Minnetonka that have dotted the SCSU lineup over the years including Jeff Kuzara (1987-91), Tim Hanus (1988-92), Andrew Prochno (2011-15) and Jimmy Schuldt (2015-19). The 20 year-old left-shooting forward is looking to re-capture his hockey progression after being out of hockey for six months after shoulder surgery. He last played in game competition in November of 2019.
At Minnetonka High School, Molenaar was a three-year player posting 46 goals and 29 assists for 75 points in 73 games. As a team captain his senior year he scored 22 goals in 25 games. He played a full season for Tri-City of the USHL in 2018-19 and produced a respectable 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points in 53 games. However, after being traded to Cedar Rapids in November of 2019 a torn labrum in his shoulder put an end to his season with surgery performed in January of 2020.
Neutral Zone, described his play as “a bit understated. He managed the puck well, got shots to the net and has good size and strength. He competes hard, slides to good spots without the puck and set up screens well. He is balanced on his skates and strong on the puck. He also has a slick element to his game as he is able to slip pucks into defenders’ blind spots around their feet and between their stick and body. He played in every key situation, made everyone better and is a coach’s dream. (He’s a) prepared and consistent player.”
Coaches Comments: “He has a great stick and is smart. He needs to get stronger but should be a heckuva college hockey player and will put up points. He wasn’t able to train all summer so the extended pre-season is probably good for him.”
CenterIceView Comments: Molenaar, the 2018 MN High School Class AA Herb Brooks Award winner is a true leader and ultimately should attain a captains role for the Huskies during his career. Once recovered from his shoulder repair, Molenaar will be able to display the speed and skill that should allow him to maintain regular ice time for the Huskies. He’ll eventually be a point producer and is the type of player that improves the play of others around him. Molenaar has a history of scoring goals in bunches and he’ll be an interesting player to follow. He may be a little behind for the start of the season but should see increased ice time as the season progresses. He’ll be a solid four-year player for the Huskies.
Brady Ziemer – 5’10’ 180 (Carver, MN) Defense
Ziemer, committed to the Huskies in June of 2017 and has quietly gone about his business preparing for his time as a player for the St. Cloud State Huskies. His time has finally come as he joins the Huskies as a first-year defenseman on a unit that has gone through a metamorphosis of it’s own. Losing two of the most popular and productive defensemen in Husky hockey history in Jimmy Schuldt after the 2018-19 season and Jack Ahcan after the 2019-20 season has the defensive unit looking for a new personality devoid of those two outstanding players. Ziemer looks to inject his style of play into the mix.
Ziemer was a four-year player for Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, MN, an assistant captain his sophomore and junior years and team captain his senior season. The team hit the high watermark in 2017-18 with a 21-3-1 record suffering a painful 5-4 two overtime loss to Minnetonka and fellow 2020-21 incoming Husky, Joey Molenaar who scored a goal in that section final game. Ziemer finished his senior season with 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points and 40 penalty minutes.
A draft choice of the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL Futures Draft in 2016, Ziemer attended their camp in 2018 but despite impressing, the team had a log-jam of players at defense and Ziemer opted to join the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League for the 2018-19 season. It turned out to be a good move with Ziemer logging 55 games of experience compiling 19 points and 73 penalty minutes in 60 games. He turned in an outstanding defensive season and earned the team award for the best plus-minus on the Centennials.
Drafted #36 by the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in 2019, Ziemer joined the squad for the 2019-20 season and put forth another exemplary defensive year finishing third overall on the team in plus-minus at +13 (one plus-minus behind the leaders) with 7 points and 72 penalty minutes.
Coaches Comments: SCSU head coach Brett Larson, a former defenseman describes Ziemer as a “gritty, hard defender willing to play physical, block shots but with the ability to make that first pass.” In a way he compares him to former SCSU defenseman, Jon Lizotte, a defensive partner of Jimmy Schuldt and now with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He further described ” He has a little swagger. He just shows up to play and is an honest player.”
Center Ice View Comments: Initially recruited by the previous coaching staff, former SCSU assistant Garrett Raboin described Ziemer as a “throwback”, the style of player that we see less and less of these days in this age of speed, finesse and skill back at the blue line. Don’t expect him to be burying the puck that often. He’s only netted five goals in 105 junior hockey games and only once last season in 45 games despite possessing a strong shot. More than anything, his 139 minutes of penalties stands out in his statistics and it’s an unlikely reflection of the physical play of a defenseman that is only 5’10” and 180 pounds. But, that’s his style of play. He’s strong and compact, plays the physical game and will make an open-ice hit. Most likely, that’s what caught the eye of Raboin, another undersized defenseman who played the same way. He’ll be tough to keep out of the lineup as a first-year player.
Ziemer told me “I believe that I’m at my best when I’m hard to play against. Penalties sometimes come with that because I am battling and working as hard as I can. I always stand up for my teammates as well and I’m not afraid to mix it up every once in awhile. Being physical and being hard to play against is a big part of my game and I make sure to always have my teammates backs. Regardless of the stat line, in the end, I want the opposition to feel like they had to fight for every inch during my shift.”
This is a key class of recruits for coach Larson and group of players that should experience a lot of success during their time as a Husky.