The Pipeline Show is excited to bring you a series of guest player blogs by some of the top players eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. For a complete recap of the blogs so far, click on '2009 Guest Blogs' under 'Labels' down the right-hand side of your screen. To date we have heard from John Moore from the Chicago Steel in the USHL, Ethan Werek of the Kingston Frontenacs and Dylan Olsen of the Camrose Kodiaks.
Here now is the first entry from Fargo Force netminder Mike Lee...
Hello, my name is Mike Lee, and I have been asked to keep a blog for the upcoming draft this summer. I am grateful to be included, and I will do my best to give insight into my season with the Fargo Force and my draft experience. I will start with a little background of myself.
I am from Roseau, Minnesota, a small town (population 3,000) about 10 miles from the Canadian border in northern Minnesota. Roseau is a hockey crazy town that has turned out players such as the Broten brothers, including Neal Broten who won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey, as well as many others that saw successful professional careers. I have been playing hockey for as long as I can remember, and the same can be said for most of the people that I grew up with. I played for Roseau my whole life until this past year, and it is kind of funny how I actually came to be a goalie. I started out rotating between goalie and forward in mite hockey, but I loved the position so much, that when the Squirt "B" team in town was short a goalie, I didn't hesitate to join. I skipped my last year of mites to play goalie full time and haven't looked back.
This past season, I made the decision to leave Roseau and play for Dean Blais and the Fargo Force in the USHL. We lost in the Clark Cup finals about a week ago now, and there is still a bit of a sour taste in my mouth that I am sure almost every athlete knows. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better junior hockey experience, and I am very grateful for the opportunity Coach Blais gave me and all the work everybody involved put in to making the first year for the Force very successful. I am also grateful to have been part of a team that was so close and made up of such respectable and caring guys on and off the ice.
We started out the year with an unfinished rink and the youngest team in the league, and from the outside it looked like it could have been a long year, but everybody on the team knew that we could and would be successful. We were practicing in Moorhead, MN everyday for the first month and a half of the year and hauling our gear to and from home everyday. In October, our rink got closer and closer to being finished, and we were assigned the important duty of sweeping every inch of the building on Sundays to help out the construction crew. We struggled the first month of the year, but once everybody got their feet wet, we built steadily towards the Christmas break. The second half of the season is where we really came on. We continued climbing in January, and when February came around, we started playing the kind of hockey that took us all the way to two playoff series sweeps and the Clark Cup finals.
I was also invited to play for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose, Alberta this past November. This was my first experience wearing the red, white, and blue, and I was very excited to represent my country with such a talented group of players. I ended up getting to play 4 games out there, and we brought home a gold medal, which is something I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a great experience to join 19 other guys that I didn't know, and just 10 days later we were champions and great friends. The tournament happened at a great time for teammate Josh Birkholz and I. When we came back to Fargo, the turnaround for the team seemed to start in those next couple of weeks.
I will be continuing my hockey career at St. Cloud State next season, and I am very excited to be a Husky and have the opportunity to play in the WCHA and for a national championship.
As I said earlier, it has been about a week since the season ended, and I am back home in Roseau finishing my senior classes and trying to prepare for the upcoming combine. It is nice to be home, but I miss being around the guys and being at the rink everyday. I have been getting my hockey fix this week by playing roller hockey with my friends and watching the NHL playoffs.
Mike Lee is ranked as the 4th best goalie available in 2009 by International Scouting Services (May '09) and 4th in North America by NHL Central Scouting (Final rankings). The 6'1 and 185 lbs netminder ended the year with 26 wins, a .918 sv% and a 2.40 GAA in 48 games for Fargo in the USHL. He also played in the USHL All-Star game as well as the 2008 WJAC Challenge in Camrose, AB where he represented the United States and backstopped them to a gold medal finish. Lee has a NCAA commitment to attend St. Cloud State University beginning next season.
(Photos Courtesy: Robert J. Meyer/USHL Images and Hockey Canada)