The Rochester Grizzlies have made a habit out of finding talented players from traditionally strong Minnesota high school hockey programs.
They're hoping they've done so again after Wednesday's North American 3 Hockey League Draft.
Rochester selected five players in the draft, all with ties to powerful high school programs.
The Grizzlies started the day by trading into the top 10 to select forward Brody Schultz from Section 8A champion East Grand Forks Senior High.
Rochester added a pair of players from Mahtomedi, a perennial Class A power in Minnesota, which lost in the Section 4A championship game this year to eventual state champion Gentry Academy. In between their picks from Mahtomedi, the Grizzlies drafted a forward who played his high school hockey at Lakeville North. With their final selection, they went north to Section 7AA and took a forward from Grand Rapids.
Just nine days removed from their first-ever appearance in the NA3HL's championship game, the Fraser Cup, the Grizzlies began building for the 2021-22 season, starting with the selection of Schultz. The senior forward was the fourth-leading scorer for the Green Wave this season, accumulating 10 goals and 27 points in 23 games. He helped East Grand Forks reach the Class A state semifinals, where it fell to Gentry Academy in a close 5-3 game. Schultz had two game-winning goals and averaged 1.17 points per game for the Green Wave, who finished 14-9-0.
Schultz finished his three-year varsity career at East Grand Forks with 21 goals and 52 total points. He had 20 points as a junior, when he played with current Austin Bruins forward Mason Poolman.
Schultz's selection marks the second consecutive year the Grizzlies have drafted an East Grand Forks player. They picked defenseman Josh Nelson in the third round last year.
In Round 2 on Wednesday, Rochester selected Mahtomedi defenseman JD Metz. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-shot blue-liner was the Zephyrs' third-leading scorer as a senior, recording nine goals and 27 total points. He helped Mahtomedi reach the Section 4A final, where it fell to Gentry 7-3. Metz was at his best against the Zephyrs' toughest opponents, including recording six points in three postseason games.
Keaton Kranz became Rochester's first third-round selection. The Lakeville North graduate played the 2020-21 season for the Sioux Falls Power 18U AAA program, where he finished the season with six goals and six assists. He had 19 goals and 40 points over his final two seasons at Lakeville North, from 2018-20.
The Grizzlies have found success in locking in multiple players from the same high school program. It worked well in 2019-20, with Eden Prairie forward Garrett Smith (36 points) and defenseman Clayton Shultz (22 points) combining for 58 points in 82 combined games played.
They're hoping to find the same success from a pair of Mahtomedi players. Rochester went back to Mahtomedi in Round 4 to select the Zephyrs' leading scorer, forward Adam Johnson. The 6-foot, 165-pound senior captain led the team in goals (13), points (30) and power-play goals (3) this season.
Rochester rounded out its draft by selecting Braeden Holcomb. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior forward was Grand Rapids' fourth-leading scorer this season with nine goals and 21 points. Grand Rapids finished 15-2-1, losing to eventual Section 7AA champion Andover in the section semifinals. Holcomb was the Thunderhawks' second-leading scorer as a junior (8-21--29), behind only classmate and 2021 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Jack Peart. Holcomb finished his three-year high school career with 66 points.