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Jason Schmitt is the editor of, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picking all-county hockey team not so easy

As the hockey beat writer, I take pride in covering the sport to the best of my ability, to keep in touch with coaches and keeping tabs on the best talent in Oakland County. But like anyone, I cannot see every team, every player. I cannot be everywhere.
So I rely on open lines of communications with coaches. I rely on other post-season awards to help gauge the talent - based on the coaches' opinions and selection processes. I do understand that some awards are political. I don't base all my all-county decisions on an all-league or even all-state team. I don't base everything on stats either, as the competition can vary greatly from one league to another.
I try to balance and weigh all these things together, and then put together a quality all-county team. Picking my team this year, like every year, was extremely difficult.
Sure, you have the easy picks, like Brother Rice's Mackenzie MacEachern and Chris Wilberding. They were both state Dream Team selections. I'd look like a fool if I didn't have them on my six-man team. But from there I had some tough decisions to make.
Waterford Mott's Scott Cuthrell had 42 goals and 76 total points this season. Great numbers, no matter what league you play in (he played in the KLAA North). I had him as my Athlete of the Week earlier this year and at that time he told me he had played with many of the best players in the state. And just this week I learned he made the Team Michigan squad. He was one of nine Oakland County players on the 20-man roster, which included talent from all across the state.
It was hard not to ignore MacEachern and Wilberding's teammate, Thomas Ebbing. Some may dismiss his play because he was paired with the best player in the state. But I saw him play at Compuware and his coach feels he's the straw that stirs the Warriors' drink. He's for real, and many scouts have taken notice. I'm not even sure he'll be back for his senior year. He's drawn some serious interest from many Junior hockey teams.
All three of my Dream Team forwards (MacEachern, Cuthrell and Ebbing) are members of Team Michigan.
The same can be said for the two defensemen, Wilberding and Catholic Central's Nolan Gluchowski. Wilberding was among the top two defensemen in the state. And Gluchowski was Catholic Central's best player all year long. Yeah, the same CC team that many still consider the best team in the state.
Drew Galasso, Lake Orion's first-year senior goalie, had the numbers and accolades to make my decision fairly easy there.

Clarkston's Adam Larkin
Trying to gauge where a player belongs on a five-team all-county squad isn't easy. Many do not play against each other, while many also do not play mutual competition. One player who drew rave reviews from just about everyone I spoke with was Clarkston junior defenseman Adam Larkin. He was probably the one player I'd have liked to create a spot for on the Dream Team.

One thing I do take into account is that some leagues hand out a set number all-league spots based on a team's success, while others use league success to help reward teams and their players. Either way, I always take that information with a grain of salt.
Going back to something I said above, I do rely on information provided by coaches to help me make my decisions. If I do not hear from a coach, I might not know everything I need to know about his players. Most coaches were great this season. Some were not.

Because I only included bio information on the Dream Team, I'd like to take a moment to highlight a few of the other players who had great seasons:
- James Nahikian of Troy finished with 43 goals and eight assists and was first-team all-state. According to my count, his 43 goals were tops in Oakland county.
- Waterford Mott's Austin Sereno was also a scoring machine. He finished with 33 goals and 30 assists playing alongside Cuthrell.
 - The Catholic Central trio of Peter Halash, Charlie Green and Michael Babcock. Their team's success during the regular season did not go unrecognized. They were all first-team all-state selections and all made my teams. The three combined for 88 points this season.
- A little love for the little schools here. Bishop Foley's Luke Ortel finished with 29 goals and teammate Ryan VanBommel had 31 points from the blue line to help the team to one of its best seasons ever. Country Day's Sebastian Stankiewicz (46 points) and Shane Switzer (42) once again made it known that the Yellowjackets produce more than just great basketball, soccer and tennis players. Both earned first-team all-state accolades in Division 3.
- Oxford made a nice transition up into the OAA Red this season. And a lot of that success can be attributed to the play of senior forwards Nick Hocker (43 points) and Nolan Chapman (41). They leave the school 1-2 in career scoring.
- Both Royal Oak and Royal Oak Shrine may have struggled this year, but both had players who stood out. Shrine senior Jake Luddy, a three-year captain, finished with 18 goals and 38 points, while teammate Joe Nagle, a junior winger, had 28 goals and 52 points for the Knights. Royal Oak's Eric White and Evan Fall had 46 and 40 points for the Ravens.
- South Lyon Unified played in one of the toughest divisions in any league (KLAA Central), battling D1 champion Brighton, last year's D1 champion Novi, Northville and Livonia Stevenson all year long. Despite that, senior captain Jared Vincek and assistant captain Colin Tittle proved to be among the best in the KLAA.
- Stoney Creek doesn't reach the D2 quarterfinals without seniors Matt Zuelch (36 points) and Taylor Zuke (26 points). The pair earned all-state honors.

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