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Prep Hockey: Preseason Top 25 Teams: Hartland is No. 1 followed by Brighton and Livonia Stevenson

By: Sean Baligian, December 7, 2016, 3:26 pm

1. Hartland. This could be the year that coach Rick Gadwa and the Eagles get over the hump in Division 2. The Eagles have been a constant threat for a few years now, making it to the state semifinals three of the last four seasons, twice finishing as runner-up. But they are the team to beat to start the season.

2. Brighton. The Bulldogs routinely play one of the toughest schedules in the state. The battle-tested ways have served coach Paul Moggach’s teams in the past. They start the year as the team to beat in Division 1.

3. Livonia Stevenson. Coach David Mitchell and the Spartans are off to another great start, and looking for just one more win this season, after falling in the Division 2 finals the last two seasons. Champions in 2013, Stevenson looks to add another title this season.

4. Flint Powers. The Chargers are off to a great start to the season and coach Travis Perry has loaded up the early portion of the schedule with some of the state’s toughest teams regardless of division. The Chargers are the favorites in what is an intriguing Division 3.

5. Warren De La Salle. The Pilots should be right on the heels of Powers in Division 3, as coach Craig Staskowski has them off to a 4-0 start.

6. Birmingham Brother Rice. The Warriors are the third Division 2 team in the top 6, and they have a group that can bring home a championship as well under coach Kenny Chaput. Adding a fine assistant in former Berkley head coach Jeff Fleming just adds to the riches. 

7. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood. Things just got very interesting this season in Division 1, as the Cranes make the jump up from Division 3. Coach Andy Weidenbach always has his club ready at playoff time. You can count on that.

8. Detroit Catholic Central. The defending Division 1 champs are going to make it tough on anybody if they want to take the Shamrocks crown away. Coach Brandon Kaleniecki is looking to make it two in a row since he returned to the place where he was a standout forward.

9. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Coach Kevin Zaschak once again has a formidable Rangers team capable of a long run in Division 3. 

10. Grosse Pointe South. Coach Robert McKillop has another loaded Blue Devils squad capable of making a run to the Division 2 semifinals as they did in 2015. 

11. Hancock. The defending Division 3 champions once again have a squad that can make an appearance at USA Hockey Arena in March. Coach Dan Rouleau is one of the best.

12. Plymouth. Coach Gerry Vento has done a fine job of making the Wildcats a threat, and the start that they are off to indicates that they intend to be a serious player in the loaded Division 2 ranks before all is said and done.

13. Grand Rapids Catholic Central.  The Cougars made it to the Division 3 final in 2016 and have the pieces to claim the title in 2017. Mike Slobodnik is one of the most respected coaches in the game and the rivalry with Forest Hills Central is a must-see for hockey fans the past few years.

14. U-D Jesuit. Coach Rick Bennetts and the Cubs have made it to the Division 1 semifinals a remarkable 4 years in a row, and expect another deep run this season. 

15. Troy. Two different coaches told me that coach Tim Zimmerman and his Colts are the "sleeper" team in Division 1 this season. That is good enough for me. The Colts are looking to build on a strong 19-7-1 showing last season. 

16. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern-Eastern. After a run all the way to the Division 2 semifinal last season, Coach Thomas Bissett has his squad off to a really great start. Northern-Eastern has won five of its first six games.

17. Grandville. The Bulldogs have made it to the state semifinals and USA Hockey Arena the past three seasons, and certainly have a team capable of a long run yet again this season. Coach Joel Breazeale has done a tremendous job, as a coach at Grandville, and throughout the hockey community with his tireless efforts across the board.

18. Livonia Churchill. Coach Jason Reynolds did a tremendous job with the Chargers last year, and they look to take another step this season in Division 2. 

19. Big Rapids. Coach Tim Blashill has his club off to a 6-0 start, and they have outscored their opposition by a margin of 30-8.  The Cardinals are going to be a team to keep an eye on in Division 3.

20. Allen Park. The Jags started out last season 15-0-2 and didn’t lose a game until January 30. Coach John Brithinee has another talented squad and they’re off to another strong start at 4-0

21. Novi.  The Wildcats are off to a nice start, led by goaltender Manny Legace. Coach Mark Vellucci took his squad to the quarterfinals in 2015 and this team will be a force in Division 2 as well. 

22. Orchard Lake St Mary’s. Coach Brian Klanow has his Eaglets playing one of the toughest schedules in the state every year and this year is no exception. Look for this team to improve as the season progresses because of it.

23. Lake Orion. The Dragons are off to a 4-1 start with their only loss coming to the upstart Troy Colts. Coach Nick Field has done a great job at the helm and has the Dragons as a team to watch in Division 1.

24. Northville. This is the third straight Division 1 team in the rankings. The Mustangs have been hit early by injuries but remain a threat, especially when healthy.

25. East Grand Rapids.  The Pioneers are off to a strong 5-1 start with the only loss coming to Forest Hills Central. Coach Evan Lucas has a young team that will gain a lot of valuable experience by the time the Division 3 playoffs roll around.