East Metro boys hockey player of the year: White Bear Lake’s Nolan Roed

Nolan Roed’s foray into the United States Hockey League in the fall was an eye opener. The White Bear Lake senior played 16 games with the Tri City Storm, posting six goals and seven assists.

But don’t correlate statistical success with an easy transition.

“It’s the hardest hockey jump I’ve ever had to do in my career,” Roed said. “I’ve talked to a lot of other guys and they’re like, ‘High school to USHL is the hardest one.’”

He didn’t recognize it as the same game. It was far less about finesse and skill and far more about grit and toughness. If you couldn’t be physical, you couldn’t succeed.

“It’s a lot harder, it’s a lot more tight battles, you have to win every battle,” Roed said. “And, when you do score, it’s usually not a pretty goal.”

Which, frankly, suits Roed well. He’s not afraid to mix it up in a contest to see who can control the puck.

“He’s not like a flashy, toe drag (goal scorer).” Bears coach Chris Anderson said. “He just makes very sound plays, and he knows how to finish. And I think, at the end of the day, he plays a very hard game. He wins battles. He plays a very hard game in a sense that he’s not running into guys. But he wins battles, and that’s just something that’s really hard to coach.”

Or replicate. After his time with Tri City, Roed returned to White Bear Lake with the same physical mindset and translated it beautifully back to the high school game.

“People are looking for the pretty play, and I take pride in getting into the dirty areas to score goals,” Roed said. “A lot of guys in high school maybe still think it’s going to be a lot of skilled plays, but it’s really not. I think me playing a more pro-style game really helped me produce.”

The result has been a 33-goal, 24-assist season, and counting. Because Roed, a Mr. Hockey finalist and St. Cloud State commit, has the Bears back in the Class 2A state tournament for the first time since 2019. Fourth-seeded White Bear Lake will meet fifth-seeded Grand Rapids in the quarterfinal round at 8 p.m. Thursday in St. Paul.

“I take a lot of pride (in getting the team back to state),” the center said. “One of the reasons for coming back (for my senior year), I feel like my career wasn’t filled, because I didn’t get to take the trip to the X. So being able to come back and do that with my buddies is something I’ve always dreamt of.”

He certainly led the charge. White Bear Lake graduated a strong senior class a year ago. Many of those players are now playing in the North American Hockey League or the USHL. The Bears also experienced a number of injuries during the season. For instance, junior forward Jack Stanius, the top winger on Roed’s line, missed much of the season before returning just in time for the sectional tournament.

Many of the players who logged significant ice time for the Bears this season, while talented, didn’t enter the winter with much varsity experience.

“So Nolan has kind of had to take on some more of a workload in that sense,” Anderson said.

Much of that workload, Roed said, came in the form of leadership. His line was shuffling every week as White Bear Lake tried different combinations to succeed while down critical pieces.

He was trying to aid different players in the transition to becoming pivotal varsity players.

“I think that really helped my leadership skills. Because guys maybe thought, ‘Dang, we lost Stanius, how are we going to do this?’ ” Roed said. “Just telling guys that everything is going to be fine, and you’ve just got to buy in. It doesn’t matter who’s on the ice, you’ve just got to play the right way.”

He was a shining example of that.

Anderson noted there are a number of A-level players with C-level work ethics, and vice versa. Roed, he said, is “the total package.”

“Nolan plays the game the right way, plays very hard, and he’s a great leader on and off the ice. He’s a good friend to a lot of guys,” Anderson said. “So he’s just been the type of hockey player that a coach wants and wants to be able to have on his team and leverage as a leader … just because of the way he plays. It’s hard to describe. He does things the right way. I don’t even need to talk to him very much. We just look at each other and he knows and I know.”

And when the rest of the Bears see the team’s best player grinding away in the tough areas, they’re likely to follow suit.

Roed’s increased goal total this season could perhaps be linked to just greater responsibility to score. But he feels it was a natural progression in his game.

Roed, whose brother, Lleyton, is currently Bemidji State’s top scorer as a sophomore, has always had physicality to his game and a stride to quickly create space and bust into open areas. But he believes he’s seeing the game better now than ever before. That was evident during White Bear Lake’s late-season road victory over Cretin-Derham Hall, during which the center tallied five points on four goals and an assist.

Two of those goals, he said, came on breakaways he created by reading the Raiders’ offense and anticipating a turnover. Anderson recalled the final score came on an empty-netter after Roed won a battle in the Bears’ end to obtain the puck.

“That game epitomizes who he is,” Anderson said. “He’s a special kid.”


Jimmy Dodig, junior defenseman, Cretin-Derham Hall: Merrimack commit has 22 points from the blue line of the state-bound Raiders, who have allowed two goals or fewer in 21 of their 28 games to date.

Leo Gabriel, junior goalie, White Bear Lake: The Bears believe that, with Gabriel in the net, they have a shot against anyone in the state. “I think everybody in the state and on our team knows that,” Roed said.

Aiden Grossklaus, junior forward, Woodbury: Minnesota State Mankato commit potted 27 goals this season to go with 18 assists.

Harper Searles, senior forward, Centennial: Searles has 24 goals and a gaudy 41 assists. His 65 points pace the Cougars, who enter the Class 2A tournament as the No. 3 seed.

Zach Wooten, senior forward, Eastview: Maine commit had 18 goals and 32 assists while guiding the Lightning to the top seed in Class 2A, Section 3.

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