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Laker or Force?

Tanner Lane will decide where he will play next year...DLHS or Fargo.

Decisions, decisions.

There are plenty of decisions which need to be made by incoming high school seniors, but for Detroit Lakes soon-to-be senior Tanner Lane, he has two questions looming before him.

Should he stay or should he go?

Lane was chosen in the third round of the United States Hockey League entry draft with the Fargo Force's sixth pick earlier this spring.

Fargo traded for the Omaha, Neb., draft choice at 44 and chose the Laker skater.

In July, Lane will participate in the Force's tryout camp and from there, decisions will need to be made about his future.

And they will not be easy ones.

"It's definitely a big decision to make," Lane said of either staying put to play in Detroit Lakes for his final year in high school, or go play with the Force.

The DL hockey prodigy has made plenty of noise while skating for the Lakers since his freshman year, to garner the attention by the USHL, as well as by several prominent Division I hockey programs.

He was Minnesota's leading scorer last season with 49 goals and 41 assists for a total of 90 points.

He added 12 power play goals in the 2009-10 season, with eight shorthanded tallies as well.

Lane was also DL's leading scorer his sophomore season, when he notched 52 points, including 26 goals and 26 assists.

The Force picked a total of 16 players in the USHL entry draft, with Lane being one of three high school players picked -- along with defensemen Garrett Schmitz of Red Lake (238th overall) and Austin Rudnick of Breck (283rd overall).

Fargo is also coming off two straight seasons where they finished as the league's runners-up after losing the last two years in the USHL finals.

So which uniform will Lane be wearing come this late fall?

There are plenty of aspects to think about before making one of his most important decisions of his young playing career.

Close to home vs. being at home

The first step Lane needs to take before seeing where he will land will come in July during the Force's tryout camp.

There, all the draft picks, as well as walk-ons, will skate and compete in front of the Fargo Force coaching staff.

Lane is familiar with the process, after skating on a high school Elite team last year in the Force tryout camp.

But with Lane being one of the Force's top six picks in this year's draft, he will have an inside track of making the team.

"It shows what they think of me," Lane said. "I talked with a couple of junior teams from out east before the draft and never really talked with Fargo.

"But I'm glad Fargo drafted me, because it's close to home and it helps sway my decision a little more. If I was drafted by a team far away, I would be leaning towards staying in high school."

If Lane decides to leave DLHS and go play for the Force during the 2009-10 season, he may have to enroll at West Fargo High School to take his senior classes.

But Lane is hoping he can instead take online classes, so he can still "graduate a Laker."

Another option Lane can take is to play before and after the high school season.

Laker head hockey coach Chris Denardo knows high school teams lose their top players to the junior leagues all the time and if Lane does decide to be a Force player, it will be the first time a DL player decided to leave high school early.

"Most players do opt to stay in high school and the junior hockey team still owns the rights to them after they graduate," Denardo said. "I knew Tanner was going to get drafted, especially after last season.

"But this is his decision and he's going to do what he's going to do and I will support his decision no matter what it is."

There are benefits and negatives to each side of the coin, as well.

The obvious benefit of staying in high school is Lane will be able to finish his career playing with his friends he grew up on the ice with.

"If I stay, I can play with all my buddies I grew up with and my family can still watch me play," Lane said. "And (Denardo) has helped me a lot, too."

But during last season, Lane was an obvious target for opposing defenses. He was drug down, had multiple defenders on him constantly and was a marked player throughout the game.

That's the kind of attention Minnesota's leading scorer usually garners.

But if Lane decides to play junior hockey, he will just be another player out on the ice, playing against the same -- or even better -- caliber of player.

Meaning, he will see much more open ice.

"I will just be one of the younger guys on the team and I will have my role to play," Lane said of the Force opportunity. "I will have to earn my spot and playing time on the team."

Another factor in Lane's decision goes a bit more into the future.

He has been in contact with multiple D-I college teams, including the WCHA's University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State University and Bemidji State.

Most D-I players now days play juniors for a year or two, some during their high school years and some after.

Lane said he has been advised by the U of M coaches to just go to the Force tryout camp and see where he fits in -- then make a decision.

A former Laker player who played juniors at Green Bay, Wisc., and now plays for the WCHA's Minnesota State University Mankato Mavericks men's hockey team is DL all-time leading scorer Joe Schiller.

He knows what kind of player Lane is and what the junior league has to offer to ready oneself for D-I hockey.

"Juniors really benefits any kid who wants to get better (for D-I)," Schiller said. "To jump straight out of high school, right to college, only the elite players can do that.

"For me, staying in high school for my senior season helped me prepare for juniors. But my situation is different than Tanner's, just because he maybe good enough already to play juniors."

Schiller realizes Lane is torn between being loyal to his friends and high school and his opportunity to better himself as a hockey player for the next level.

"I played with a few high school players in Green Bay and I didn't envy them, because they were playing a long hockey schedule, while going to school," Schiller included. "He may not see much playing time the first year, but that might just be fine, too, because that will motivate him to work harder his second year.

"It's a tough decision."

Spawning more attention playing juniors isn't necessarily needed, either, for Lane, since leading the state in scoring has put plenty of spotlight on him -- as the interest from WCHA teams prove.

There will be no one easy decision for Lane, but whichever one he makes, it will be a good opportunity for a blossoming hockey career.

"The big thing is that Tanner takes his time to make his decision," Denardo added.

And no one knows that more than Lane himself.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.