Duluth East senior left winger Ricky Lyle is a rugged, prime-time player to watch this season.
The unsigned Division I prospect had 20 goals and 35 points in 31 games for the Minnesota Class 2A state runners-up Greyhounds last season, including four goals in the post-season.
Lyle plays a tenacious 200-foot game, and quietly dominates play along the walls and in dirty spaces such as in front of an opponents’ net. He has good size, strength, speed and possesses a quick-release, heavy shot, which he’s able to blast in traffic.
A poster boy for unheralded, lunch bucket-type players at all levels, Lyle is a unanimous first-team pick on the prestigious CBS 3 All-Preseason Section 7AA/A High School Boys Hockey Team, which also includes Greyhounds teammate Ryder Donovan and four Hermantown standouts: ultra-elite junior forward Blake Biondi, defenseman Darin Gotz and super-sophomore Joey Pierce, and goaltender Cole Manahan.
“We’ve got good depth, we’re skilled and our guys believe in our winning system,” Lyle said of this year’s Greyhounds, who will begin official preseason workouts next Monday at their home barn, Essentia Duluth Heritage Center.
Duluth East and Hermantown will open the season ranked first by the CBS 3 in Section 7AA and 7A, respectively. The eye-opener, perhaps, is the Greyhounds being ranked ahead of preseason darling Andover, which returns most of its top players from last season’s 7AA runner-up team.
“Andover is a top team in our section — a solid team with good depth, speed and the skill to dominate teams. Everyone is putting them above us,” said the personable and articulate Lyle. “Our section will be tough again this year, and we’re a section final team. If we continue to believe, like we did last year, we can make a run at a state title. (East coach Mike) Randolph knows how to get us to the section finals, and he’s been doing it for years. This season should be no different. He will have us ready for the season.”
F — Ricky Lyle, Duluth East senior
F — Blake Biondi, Hermantown junior (Bulldogs recruit)
F — Ryder Donovan, Duluth East senior (North Dakota recruit)
D — Darian Gotz, Hermantown senior (Bulldogs recruit)
D — Joey Pierce, Hermantown sophomore
G — Cole Manahan, Hermantown senior
F — Gavin Rasmussen, Cloquet senior
F — Logan Anderson, Duluth East junior
F — Donte Lawson, Greenway senior
D — Frederick Hunter Paine, Duluth East senior
D — Jack Peart, Grand Rapids sophomore
G — Carter Clafton, Greenway sophomore
Preseason Player of the Year
F — Blake Biondi, Hermantown
Preseason Coach of the Year
Mike Randolph, Duluth East
Newcomers to Watch
D Mason Langenbrunner, Cloquet sophomore
D Joey Pierce, Hermantown sophomore
F Jacob Jeannette, Duluth East sophomore
2018-19 CBS 3 Section 7AA/7A Preseason Boys Hockey Rankings
1. Duluth East
4. Elk River
5. Grand Rapids
6. Duluth Marshall
7. Forest Lake
9. St. Francis
5. Duluth Denfeld
6. North Shore
7. International Falls
10. Ely/Northeast Range
The annual Hilltopper Classic high school boys hockey tournament will be held Dec. 27-29 at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth. Competing teams include Bemidji, Blake School, Brainerd, Buffalo, Chanhassen, Duluth Marshall, Hermantown and Rosemount.
Duluth Amateur Hockey Association 2018-19 Tournaments: November 9-11 — Gales of November (Pee Wee AA), Tommy Williams Invitational (Bantam AA); November 16-18 — Portman Thanksgiving (Squirt A-B); November 23-25 — Denfeld Up North (Pee Wee A, Pee Wee B, Bantam A, Bantam B); December 7-9 — Glen Avon Head of the Lakes Classic (Pee Wee B1, Bantam B1); December 14-16 — Lake Superior Classic (Pee Wee A, Bantam A); December 28-30 — Duluth East Cold Steel on Ice (Bantam B); January 11-13 — Mid Winter Classic (Pee Wee C, Bantam C); January 18-20 — St. Luke’s Icebreaker Invitational (Girls Youth); January 25-27 — Portman Skate on the Edge (Squirt B); February 1-3 — Zenith City Invitational (Pee Wee B2, Bantam B2); February 8-10 — Twin Ports Junior Gold (Jr. Gold); February 15-17 — Congdon Northern MN Blades of Steel (Squirt B)
Howie Hanson is an independent writer, and is partnering with CBS 3 Duluth for the upcoming hockey season. Watch for his weekly articles, which will rank area hockey teams, players, and coaches, every Thursday.