Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Brady Tkachuk: Relentless

By Neal E. Boudette
Brady Tkachuk has not yet turned 18, hasn’t played a game of college hockey and won’t be drafted for another 10 months. But he’s already emerged as a rising star in American hockey and a likely pick to make the USA world junior team.
In preliminary games at USA Hockey’s World Junior Summer Showcase, the incoming freshman has a goal and an assist, but seems to create a scoring chance almost every time he’s on the ice, either with his skills or his intense, relentless, physical play.
One NHL scout told me Tkachuk is “an absolute lock” to make the USA team.

Tkachuk said he’s just trying to play his best. He was asked if maybe he’s the best of the Tkachuks, His father, Keith Tkachuk, was a Terrier in 1990-91 and went on to become the #3 all-time in NHL points among American born players. His older brother Matthew, the #6 overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, went 13-35-48 as a Flames rookie last year.
“I don’t know how to answer that question. My dad had a really good career and Matthew had a great year,” he said.
One thing he’s sure of is that tough, physical play is the hallmark of his game. His NTDP teammate Sean Dhooghe said Tkachuk doesn’t know any other way to play.
“He’s gritty, he’s mean. In practice last year, on the ice, I hated him. There were plenty of times when we got off the ice and were just ignoring each other and then just hugging it out,” Dhooghe said. “Unbelievable player. A guy you want on your side, never want to play against him.”

Last season, after scoring two highlight reel goals against Arizona State, Tkachuk was awarded a khaki hard hat, after being named by teammates and coaches as the "Hardest Working Player" in the game

"He could get it (the hard hat award) every night, the kid’s relentless," said NTDP Under-18 head coach John Wroblewski,
Tkachuk turns 18 on Sept. 16, a day late for the 2017 draft. Scouts consider him a sure-fire first rounder. Even before the WJSS, Future Considerations ranked him at #6 for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
He told me he’s started classes at BU and can’t wait to start his career as a Terrier.
“They have great people there, great facilities,” he said. “The D is probably among the best in the country, so we should have a really good team.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Oettinger: Terriers have the right recipe

By Neal E. Boudette
BU’s Jake Oettinger is one of four goalies vying to make the cut at for this week for the American team at USA Hockey’s World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich. While it’s an intense competition, he told me there’s a lot of camaraderie between the four netminders:
“When we’re on the ice, it’s every guy wants to be the best goalie, but when we step off the ice we’re teammates and friends. It’s good to hang out with those guys,” he said.
One of the others is Joe Woll, Oettinger’s teammate during their two years with the NTDP here, and now arch rival at the school up the street.
“I see him during the year and last fall we went to a Red Sox game together. Obviously competitors but also friends, so it’s fun to battle against him. He’s an unbelievable goalie and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Oettinger said.
He noted they don’t really get into discussions about who’s the better goalie. “I guess we’ll find out this year,” he laughed.
On Saturday, Oettinger gave up one goal on 11 shots in a half a game against the Finnish team. The goal scorer? Kasper Kotkonsalo, the 6'3" Finnish blueliner, who’s coming to BU as a freshman this year. Kotkonsalo fired a bullet of a wrist shot from the left point that pinged off the far post.
Oettinger would surely prefer to have Kotkonsalo protecting his goal rather than shooting on it, and is looking forward to the coming college season.
“I think we should pick up right where we left off. I think we should be a solid team again. We have a lot of really good guys coming back for our core, and the freshmen are going to be difference makers. It’s a really good recipe and we should be able to contend for championships.”
He said the team has plenty of motivation to work hard: “The feelings we went through losing the Beanpot and getting knocked out in t
he regional.”
Patrick Harper expressed similar optimism about the Terriers’ chance. “I think with the group of returning freshmen that we have and the guys we have in our locker room, we have all the talent to win championships, and that’s what the expectation is over at BU – to win,” he told me.
This year’s team will be a more mature and experienced group than last year’s, with the arrival of Drew Melanson, a graduate transfer from RPI, and Jake Witkowski, who’ll turn 21 before the season starts, and seniors including Brandon Hickey, John MacLeod and Nik Olsson.
“Experience plays a big part,” Harper said. “I know we were really young last year. Maybe that hurt us a little bit but I thought the group of players we had that were young really emerged throughout the year. But I’ m sure being an older team will be extremely helpful down the line for us.”
Over the summer Harper has been working on getting bigger and stronger. “I definitely worked on my shot. It’s about the release and not really about power for me. But I’ve been working on it a lot this summer.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Terrier alums making their mark in NHL coaching,scouting and management, too

By Neal E. Boudette
Last August, BU assistant coach Scott Young (photo) hopped on a trans-Atlantic flight out of Boston, awoke the following morning in Europe, sat bleary-eyed through a layover and then caught another flight to his destination: Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.
He was there to attend the Hlinka Memorial Tournament, an annual competition of some of the best 18-and-under players from the world’s top hockey-playing nations. But the highlight of the trip came when he arrived at his hotel.
There in the lounge were three former Terriers -- John Lilley, Jeff Kealty and Steve Greeley, all NHL scouts who were also there for the tournament as well.
“Long flight, jet lag, and I end up having a few beers with those guys, talking hockey, ” Young recalled. “It was great. You travel halfway around the world and you’re there with three other BU guys. I’ll never forget it.”
It’s a common occurrence. More than 20 former Terriers are currently working in NHL front offices in coaching, scouting or management positions – far more than any other college hockey program.
Mike Sullivan and John Hynes get the most attention because they are head coaches, of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, respectively.
But the list of others is long. Lilley, a Terrier in 1991-92, is an amateur scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kealty, who played on the 1995 national championship team, is chief amateur scout for the Nashville Predators, whose assistant general manager is Paul Fenton, who played four years at BU from 1978 to 1982.
Rangers’ assistant director, player personnel, Greeley, who played for Jack Parker from 2000 to 2004, was an assistant to Dave Quinn from 2013 to 2015; now, he works for Terrier legend Chris Drury, the Rangers’ assistant general manager. Among Drury’s and Kealty’s teammates on the ’95 national championship team: Mike Grier, Chris Kelleher and Chris O’Sullivan (scouts for Chicago, Minnesota and the New York Islanders). They also played with Jay Pandolfo, a Bruins assistant.
 Working with Pandolfo on the Bruins bench is Joe Sacco, a Terrier from 1987 through 1990. Sacco played with Mike Sullivan on a team that reached the 1990 Frozen Four by upsetting No. 1-ranked Michigan State on the road in a thrilling three-game series (video 1, video 2)..
            A year after that, BU was in the Frozen Four again, with a team featuring Keith Tkachuk, a St. Louis scout, Scott Lachance, a New Jersey Scout and Peter Ahola, the recently named European scout for the new Las Vegas franchise. Their Terrier squad reached the 1991 NCAA title game, losing a heart-breaker in triple overtime to Northern Michigan. 
 “It’s a pretty tight bond that the BU guys have,” Tkachuk said. “It’s probably the passion, the experiences we had at BU. Maybe it’s because we played under a great coach and got ourselves ready for the next level, not just in hockey but all other areas. It’s awesome. I run into Scott Lachance quite a bit. It’s great. Lills, Greels – it’s fun seeing those guys. Anybody who went to BU has good stories about playing at BU.”
A pro scout for the Kings' 2014 Stanley Cup champs, Greeley said he feels a connection to anyone who played at BU, not just the guys he skated with during his four years on Comm Ave.
“It definitely starts with Jack Parker and the influence he had on us,” he said. “It’s a Boston University thing. It feels we all have a connection. We all came from the same place. The BU fraternity is a pretty tight circle. If you look around college hockey or the NHL, it’s flooded with Boston University grads. Once you make the move to work in hockey, as a BU grad, you’ve got that network.”
The most senior former Terrier in an NHL front office is Bob Crocker, still an amateur scout for the Los Angeles Kings at the age of 89. He played at BU from1953 to 1955, and later was an assistant coach who helped recruit the talent for Jack Kelley’s great Terrier teams of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the winners of back-to-back national championships in 1971 and 1972.
Also on the Kings’ staff is 1965 All-American goalie Jack Ferriera, former GM of three NHL franchises and now a special assistant to L.A.’s general manager.  Mark Mullen, a 2004 classmate of Greeley’s and captain of the 2003-04 Terriers, was Kings' scout for many years before joining the Red Wings scouting staff at Scotty Bowman's invitation.
Buddy Powers, a player on two Frozen Four teams in the ‘70s and an assistant in Parker’s final years as bench boss, now works as an amateur scout for the Dallas Stars. Ron Anderson (photo), a Terrier on those ’71 and ’72 national title teams, had a long hockey career, coaching Merrimack College for 17 seasons in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He’s now the Blackhawks’ director of player recruitment.
Greeley said he thinks so many former Terriers excel in hockey even after hanging up their skates because of the life lessons learned at BU. “You get an opportunity to get a great education at BU. You don’t just play hockey, so a lot of guys are really prepared for when their playing days are over,” he said.
And the connection to BU gives them a network to be part of after leaving school. “Jack Parker created an environment that alums want to remain a part of, and Quinnie has continued it,” Greeley said.
"I didn't play with Kealty or Tkachuk at BU," he added. "But I guarantee, if I’m at a game, that’s usually who I’m standing with.”