To put it simply, John Simonson has been a leader and a winner almost as long as he's played organized hockey.
Simonson led his Grand Forks (N.D.) Central High School team to a state championship as a junior in 2009-10, when he put up 43 points in 25 games. He followed that by averaging a point per game in the Upper Midwest Elite League that fall, while helping Team Great Plains capture the playoff championship.
Last season, in his first year with the Austin Bruins, Simonson was the team's third-leading scorer, with 38 points in 59 regular-season games.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward was a big reason why the Bruins reached the North American Hockey League playoffs for the first time and were two wins away from a berth in the Robertson Cup.
"We started watching him two years prior to him coming here," Bruins coach Chris Tok said. "He played really well in high school and in the Elite League and we thought he'd be the perfect fit here. He's willing to work hard, he's a gritty player and he's been easy to coach."
With 36 points through 37 games, Simonson has nearly topped his points total from last season and has helped the Bruins to a healthy lead in the NAHL Central Division standings. Along the way, he has climbed up the team record book.
His goal in last Friday's 5-3 victory at Brookings gave him 38 for his Bruins career, moving him past Charlie Adams, who is a freshman forward at No. 13-ranked Nebraska-Omaha. Adams scored 37 goals for the Bruins from 2010-12.
"(Simonson) hangs out around the net quite a bit," Tok said. "Some say he gets fortuitous bounces, but I'd say he puts himself in the right position and, when he gets an opportunity to score, he buries it."
Tok to coach Top Prospects
Nearly two-thirds of the way into the season, the Bruins have the second-most victories in the NAHL (27) and are tied for the most points (59).
Because of the Bruins' strong play, Tok was one of five coaches from the 24-team NAHL chosen to be a head coach in the upcoming NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. Tok will coach the Dakota Region team, which will include five players from Austin, four each from Bismarck, Brookings and Minot, and three from Aberdeen.
The Top Prospects Tournament is scheduled from Feb. 18-20 in Troy, Mich. It features five all-star teams, comprising players from all 24 NAHL teams. A sixth team, made up of the best 18-and-under players in the league, will also participate in the tournament.
The rosters for the Top Prospects Tournament will be announced Tuesday.
The tournament is a way for the NAHL's top players to be seen by college and professional scouts. Last year, more than 160 scouts attended the tournament.
• Bruins forward Brandon Wahlin, who missed last Saturday's game because of an injury, was back at practice on Wednesday and should be in the lineup this weekend.
• Former Bruins defenseman Christian Folin had three assists for NCAA Division I UMass-Lowell in a 4-2 victory against Vermont last Friday. Folin, a freshman from Gothenburg, Sweden, has a goal and six assists in 16 games for the Riverhawks (11-7-1 overall, 5-6-1 Hockey East) this season.
• Tok said he hopes to watch some of FSN's coverage of Hockey Day Minnesota on Saturday from Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids. Tok played high school hockey at Greenway in Coleraine and his family still has a lake cabin on Pokegama.