Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

“The Next Ones” prepare to visit Agganis

By Neal E. Boudette

If familiarity breeds contempt, well then Thursday night’s exhibition game ought to be more than your standard pre-season match up.

The Terriers face off against the USA NTDP U18 team featuring three players – forwards Brady Tkachuk and Logan Cockerill, and blueliner David Farrance – who will come to Agganis in 2017. Those guys know the BU line up well. A year ago, they were NTDP teammates with the four alums of the program now skating in scarlet and white as freshmen – Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Chad Krys and Jake Oettinger.

Behind the scenes, more than a few texts have already been exchanged in anticipation of renewing acquaintances.

“Yeah, I talked to Keller a little because we played golf a lot last spring,” Farrance told me after a recent practice at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich. “He thinks they’re going to kill us and I tell him I don’t know about that.”

“I told Oettinger I’ll see him in front of the net,” Tkachuk added. “Hopefully he doesn’t give me a slash to the back of the legs.”

Tkachuk scores in tight on a rebound

Cockerill, for his part, said he’s psyched to play in Agganis for the first time. But he knows it will be a tough challenge, and expects that BU will surely be ready for them. A year ago, the NTDP U18 featuring Keller & Co. came into Agganis and walked out with win.

“We’re going to be playing against some good competition – Keller and Krys and Bellows and Oettinger, plus all the other talent they got,” Cockerill said.

“The guys who were [with NTDP] last year are going to be tough to play against,” Farrance went on. “They’re all going to want to play their best because they’re playing their alum team. I think it will probably be one of our hardest games of the year.”

Cockerill, Tkachuk and Farrance are all off to strong starts this year. The BU match up will be the second of 11 games scheduled with D1 teams this season, including one versus Harvard two days after their visit to Agganis. They also have five games against D3 schools.

Logan Cockerill
A Michigan native, Cockerill caught the eye of BU coaches because of his strong skating stride, intensity and awareness on the ice. So far this year he has a goal and a pair of assists for NTDP. He also had a nice goal in the recent All-American Prospects game in Philadelphia, a play that turned the heads of some scouts.

Last year with NTDP, he was 6-15-21 and developed a knack for creating scoring chances on the forecheck. In some games late in the season, Cockerill looked like one of the best players on the ice. He was slowed, however, by a separated shoulder, which took him out of the line-up for a few weeks.

He’s a rare find – a Michigan kid who did not grow up dreaming of suiting up for Michigan. He lives in Brighton, just north of Ann Arbor. But while playing AAA hockey with Belle Tire, he played in some tournaments with Boston and got the bug for playing in the Hub.

“I visited a lot of schools and when I visited BU, I just loved it. I went on a visit with my mom and Albie O’Connell showed us around. I loved the city campus. I loved having the other colleges like Harvard and BC nearby, and the rivalry around the city.”

His older brother Garret plays for Northeastern. If Garret, a junior, returns for his senior season, the two could end up facing each other in the Beanpot.

“I hope he stays,” Cockerill said. “I’m trying to convince him.”

He's 5'9" and 165 lbs., and is probably headed for a growth spurt. His brother is listed at 6' and 200.

For now, Cockerill is just pumped to make his Agganis debut, and face the challenge of playing against a college line up with four first-rounders, three second-rounders and more.

“I’m going to have some nerves. It’s definitely different playing against college teams,” he said, “but I’m very excited.”

David Farrance
Through seven games, Farrance, 5’11” and 187 lbs., has two goals and an assist. But more telling is that he’s been piling up shots on goal and blasting the puck from the point.

When told he seems to be emerging as a key part of NTDP’s offense, Farrance shrugged it off. “Yeah. You shoot the puck, sometimes it goes in.”

He said he’s been focusing on getting stronger and improving his shot. “Lot of lifting. And you’re always shooting pucks in the basement. That’s how I spent most of my days in the summer, mostly. Thankfully it’s paid off. I feel faster and my shot feels harder.”

The need to work hard is something that has been emphasized at NTDP, Farrance said. Overall, he thinks the program has been a great learning experience. “Being here, it makes you want to be a good person for your country day in and day out. It forces you to. Because you have to represent your country well. Even if you’re not wearing your jersey, you’ve always got that USA crest on.”

Farrance grew up in Victor, N.Y., near Rochester. Before coming to NTDP, Farrance skated for Syracuse in the USPHL and often played in Boston, trips he used to see several BU games. He also looked at that other school up the road.

“I’ve been to a lot of BU games. I’ve seen a lot of BC games. I liked BU a little bit better,” he said. “I visited both schools, but spent more time at BU. I just wanted to keep going back to BU and watching games there. I just liked BU, and the city. It’s pretty cool being in the city and right next to Fenway.”

It didn’t matter that his NTDP teammate and childhood buddy from Victor, Jake Tortora, opted for BC. The difference was he felt really comfortable with the coaching staff of Dave Quinn. And Agganis, of course. “The locker room and the training room and the arena, it’s all you can ask for. The fans are crazy about hockey and I love that.”

Brady Tkachuk
The son of BU legend Keith Tkachuk is a bruising forward in the mold of his father. At 6’2” and 194 lbs., he’s a big body and does his best work in the dirty areas of the ice. So far this year, he’s 2-4-6. He said he’s loved the idea of playing at BU for years.

“Usually every year, February comes around, my dad and I put the Beanpot on. He still loves talking about his days at BU. We love watching that,” Tkachuk said.

So when it came time to decide on the next step in his development, it was a no-brainer. “We live on Cape Cod in the summer, an hour away, and we have family in the Boston area. It was an easy choice, a win-win, to play for one of the best colleges in the nation and I get to see my family a bunch.”

He’s especially looking forward to the rivalry with BC, where two of his cousins, Ryan and Casey Fitzgerald, play.

“My dad likes to tell me about the rivalry,” Tkachuk said. “Very intense between the two schools.”

 A year ago, Tkachuk was 9-16-25 at NTDP. He said the program has been “the best experience. Great coaching staff, showing us how to play, how to carry ourselves off the ice.” And he gives a special tip of the hat to Lisa Volmers, director of student-athlete services. “She does a great job keeping us on track with academics.”

Tkachuk said he’s been in touch with all of the NTDP alums who are now freshmen at BU and is “super excited” for Thursday night’s game. He’ll have support in the stands. His father and a load of family members are going to be in attendance. “I think I have close to 20, 30 family members going to the game,” he laughed.

Friday, September 16, 2016

2016-17 Captain's Q&A with Doyle Somerby

Q. Doyle, as the captain of yet another very young team, with nine freshmen and eight sophomores, what are you and your assistants doing to build team chemistry?
A. To build chemistry in my mind, it doesn't matter what you are doing as long as you are together. The comfort every player has with each other goes a long way throughout the season. So far, we just try and spend as much time throughout the week together, whether that comes from watching football on Saturdays and Sundays together or hanging out after practice. I am lucky enough to live close to campus, so this summer I was able to spend a good amount of time around the incoming freshman when they were here for summer school.

Q. Since your arrival at BU, not only has your speed improved, but your agility as well. How did you achieve this and what areas are you looking to improve on personally this season?
A. Skating is a huge part of our teams success. The forwards that I am able to face on a daily basis are a huge part of my ability to improve year by year. Every summer I work with a guy named Adam Nicholas who has done a lot for me. I skate with him frequently throughout July and August and he is a major factor in my development. Also, the second that coaches are allowed on the ice with us, coach David Quinn has really pushed me throughout the year. His knowledge and experience for every defensive situation is beneficial for my growth as a player. The situations that he puts the defensemen in throughout practice allows us to improve our footwork and defensive play.  

Q. Your scoresheet contributions took a big step up last year with 5 goals, 8 assists and 45 shots on goal. Do you attribute those numbers to experience, greater comfort with the offensive scheme, recognizing and jumping on opportunities—or all three?
A. Being more of a defensive defenseman, the scoresheet is something that I am not very dependent on as a player. With that said, it is obviously nice to score goals and chip in offensively but we have a lot of skilled players that have helped me improve statistically each year. The main thing that has allowed me to increase production each year is the confidence in my skating. The first two years I was a lot more timid because I did not trust my feet to bail me out of situations. As I have grown into my body more, from work in the weight room and extra skating, I have felt the confidence to put myself in more offensive situations.

Q. Two freshmen—Patrick Harper and Johnny McDermott—are coming in directly from prep school programs. What did you find to be the biggest adjustment when you arrived from Kimball Union and what will you tell them?
A. I have talked to them quite a bit about the jump from prep to college. The general assumptions about the size and speed of guys are undeniable. All I can tell them is the grind of the season can get to you at times, and there will certainly be a lot of ups and downs, but it's how you respond each game. College hockey is very mental and I just tell them to trust their ability and enjoy each game because there aren't many better places to be than BU.

Q. How often do you speak with the Islanders about your development at BU? (Is it former Terrier Chris O’Sullivan?) What do they want you to improve before you turn pro?
A. I talk to a few different people within the Islander’ system throughout the year. Being in a system with a lot of guys who have been through the college ranks is really nice and beneficial for me. As far as improvements go, they just talk about the year-to-year jumps you make as a player. Take care of what is in your control; get stronger, work on skating, be confident, enjoy and learn from the leadership role I have been placed in. They like the system, the coaching staff and the quality of the players here at BU, so it is a good situation to be in.

Q. Does Coach Quinn’s defensive system lend itself to the style and development that NHL teams are seeking?
A. His track record speaks for itself. He is very well regarded by people at the pro level, and the players he has coached at every step of the way have gone on to be very good players. The work he does with the defenseman in practice that I alluded to earlier is something that will pay off not only this season but at the next level as well.  

Q. BU fans enjoy big open ice hits like the one you had against Duluth (video @ 6:15) in the 2015 regional. Do you look for an opportunity to make a statement with a hit? Or is it a matter of being ready when a puck-carrier has his head down?
A. It has a lot to do with timing, and the gap the defensemen have leaving the offensive zone. It is always nice to lay the big hit but it is something that is not always available. Fortunately, I am not the only defenseman on the team who enjoys the open ice hits, as Charlie McAvoy and Johnny MacLeod have been known to lay thunderous hits.

Q. With Brandon Fortunato’s departure, can we expect to see you gaining more power play opportunities?
A. Haha, I guess you never know. But my role on this team is to take care of the defensive side and pitch in offensively when I can. I was able to fill in occasionally on the powerplay last year when guys went down with injuries. We have two very talented freshmen defensemen coming in who will join Charlie McAvoy on the power play along with a lot of talented forwards, so we will see what happens.  

Q. What areas do you feel the defense needs to improve on from last year (specifically, in their own end), and what are the keys to getting better at those things this year.
A. Communication will be a big key for us this year. To get better in our own end we need to be better at talking and working off each other. We also need to be more efficient moving the puck. Breakouts are something we can really work on because it will prevent us from being hemmed into our own zone.

Q. Last season, the penalty kill, both in Hockey East and overall, was about 81%. What needs to be done to improve that number?
A. Sacrifice. Plain and simple. The effective penalty kills are the ones where people accept their role and the situation and are willing to do anything to keep the puck out of the net. Obviously we will let up goals and sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other team’s power play but bearing down to block shots and clear pucks will definitely improve our penalty kill numbers.

Q. Finally, which returning BU player will surprise Terrier fans this season?
A. For me personally I am really excited about having Nik Olsson and Nick Roberto back in our lineup this year. I don’t know if people realize how important they are to our team. With that said, I think from freshman year to sophomore year is where players may have the biggest jump. We have a few players that will really improve off of last year’s campaign. With that said, I would have to say Jordan Greenway might not surprise Terrier fans per se, but I personally am expecting some big numbers from him this year in particular. He is a special player with his blend of size and skill and I think with a year under his belt he can really take over and dominate games. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Meet the Freshman

Kieffer Bellows
F - 6-1 - 200
Led the U.S. National Under-18 Team in goals (50), power-play goals (12) and game-winning goals (9) for 2015-16 season ... Fourth different player to score 50 goals in a season with the USNTDP ... Member of the bronze medal-winning U18 team at the 2016 U18 World Championships ... Named 2014-15 USHL Rookie of the Year and All-USHL Third Team All-Star after leading the Sioux Falls Stampede to the Clark Cup (team-leading 33g were a single-season record for a 16-year-old ... Led USA U17 Team to a silver medal at the Five Nations Tournament in Germany with 2-3—5 in four games ... Won Minnesota 2014 Class 2A State Championship as a sophomore at Edina High School ... Selected to participate in the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team Development Camp. Son of Tracy and Brian Bellows ... His father played 17 seasons with five teams in the NHL and won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1993 ... Selected in the first round (19th overall) by the New York Islanders in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.
Gabriel Chabot
F - 5-8 - 180

Led 2015-16 Rochester Jr. Americans (USPHL) in games played (44), points (50), goals (19) and assists (31) ... Also led team in playoff scoring with a line of 3-1–4 ... Appeared in 46 games for the Portland Pirates of the USPHL Premier in 2014-15, good for fifth on the team, while recording a stat line of 1-2–3 ... Also played four games for the Pirates' USPHL Elite team ... Appeared in 20 games with Portland during the 2013-14 season, his first with the club, recording six assists ... Topped the 2012-13 TPH Thunder U18 squad of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League in points, goals and assists, posting a line of 12-15–27 in 39 games played ... Son of Suzanne and Frédéric Chabot ... His father was drafted in the 10th round of the 1986 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils and played five NHL seasons with three teams ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in economics.
Patrick Curry
F - 5-11 - 185

Played with the Bloomington Thunder of the USHL for two seasons, tallying a total line of 26-27–53 in 115 games played ... His 115 games played make him the longest-tenured player in club history ... Finished fifth on the team in points and fourth in goals in 2015-16 ... Netted 10 power-play goals on the Thunder's league-leading power play unit in 2015-16 ... His 20 points in 2014-15, the team's inaugural season, were good for 10th on the squad ... In 2013-14, appeared in 32 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, tallying 13 points (4g, 9a) ... Also played in 25 games for the Springfield Jr. Blues of the NAHL, totaling 26 points (12g, 14a) and a team best 1.04 points per game ... Son of Carol and George Curry ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.
Dante Fabbro
D - 6-1 - 192

Played two seasons with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, helping them claim the 2015 Fred Page Cup ... Named the Best Defenseman in the BCHL in 2015-16 after leading his position in scoring (14g, 53a, 1.49 points per game, 31 power-play points) ... Recorded eight assists in seven games as a member of Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship ... Led all defensemen in assists, leading Team Canada-West to victory at the 2015 World Junior "A" Challenge ... Named to 2014-15 BCHL All-Rookie Team with Penticton ... Had the second-most playoff points among BCHL defensemen (4g, 11a) during the run to the 2015 championship ... Selected to participate in the 2016 Canada National Junior Team Summer Development Camp ... Son of Tina and Stephen Fabbro ... Selected in the first round (17th overall) by the Nashville Predators in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.
Patrick Harper
F - 5-9 - 160

Spent his most recent full season at Avon Old Farms, captaining the Winged Beavers and leading them to the NEPSAC semifinals ... Led the team in points (59) and assists (39) while recording the second-most goals (20) ... Had a brief stint with the Omaha Lancers (USHL), recording a goal and three assists in 9 games ... Played in 13 games for the Mass Tier I U18 Neponset Valley River Rats, leading his team and the league with 32 points (19g, 13a) ... In the 2014-15 season at Avon Old Farms, led his team with 47 points, while finishing second in both goals (20) and assists (27) ... Appeared in 14 games with the Neponset Valley River Rats as a teammate of current Terrier Max Prawdzik, recording 30 points (14g, 16a) ... Tallied 29 points (13g, 16a) in 24 games for the New Jersey Rockets Midget U19 squad in 2013-14 ... Son of Heather and Roger Harper ... Selected in the fifth round (138th overall) by the Nashville Predators in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.
Clayton Keller
F - 5-10 - 175

Broke the U.S. NTDP career record for points with 189 on 71 goals and 118 assists ... Led the U18 team in scoring in 2015-16 with 107 points (37g, 70a), which placed him second all-time in NTDP history for points in a season ... Set program record for assists in a season (70) ... Tournament MVP of 2016 U18 World Championships, winning a bronze medal with Team USA ... Led U18 Five Nations Tournament with 12 points (5g, 7a) in four games ... Recorded nine points (4g, 5a) en route to a gold medal with Team USA at the 2015 U18 World Championships ... Ranked fourth on 2014-15 U18 team with 1.44 points per game (16 GP) while also leading the U17 team with 59 points (25g, 34a) in 45 games ... Led Shattuck St. Mary's High School (Minn.) in 2013-14 with 77 points (36g, 41a) ... Selected to participate in the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team Development Camp ... Son of Kelley and Bryan Keller ... Selected in the first round (seventh overall) by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.

Chad Krys
D - 6-0 - 185

Split this past season with the U.S. NTDP U18 and U17 teams, tallying 29 points (3g, 26a) in 53 games with the U18s and 13 points (2g, 11a) in 18 games with the U17s ... Youngest member of the bronze medal-winning Team USA U20 squad at the 2016 World Championships, playing alongside BU defenseman Charlie McAvoy ... Also won bronze at the 2016 U18 World Championships, serving as one of the team's assistant captains ... Won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2015 U18 World Championships, tallying five points (1g, 4a) in seven games ... Tied for the tournament lead in assists at the 2014-15 World U17 Hockey Challenge (7a in 6 GP) with fellow Terrier Clayton Keller, helping Team USA earn a silver medal ... Selected to participate in the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team Development Camp ... Son of Stacy and Mark Krys ... His dad served as captain of the Terrier men's hockey team during the 1990-91 season, helping them reach the NCAA title game ... Selected in the second round (45th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in American studies. 

Johnny McDermott
F - 6-2 - 194

Captained the Westminster School to the Large School Martin/Earl Tournament Final in 2015-16 ... Led the Martlets in assists (25) while finishing third in points (36) and goals (11) in 25 games played ... Spent a season with the Mid-Fairfield Midget Rangers U18, appearing in 22 games and recording a team-high 25 points (10g, 15a) ... Recorded an assist in two appearances for the Tri-City Storm (USHL) ... Tallied 28 points (12g, 16a) in 2014-15 at Westminster, all good for third on the team ... Finished second on the team in points (31-36—67) in 50 games as a member of the Connecticut Oilers 16U Midget squad ... Also appeared in 18 games for the Oilers U18 team of the EJEPL in the same season, recording a line of 10-11—21 ... Ranked 106th in NHL's final 2015 Central Scouting rankings for North American skaters ... Son of Lisa and Jay McDermott ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.
Jake Oettinger
G - 6-4 - 205

In 37 games with the Under-18 Team in 2015-16, posted a 2.38 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage, to go along with a record of 25-8-0-1 and two shutouts ... Backstopped Team USA to a bronze medal in the U18 World Junior Championships, posting a 1.50 GAA and a .934 save percentage in four games ... In 29 games with the Under-17 team in 2014-15, recorded team bests in goals-against average (2.57) and save percentage (.916) ... Member of the gold medal-winning U.S. squad at the 2015 U18 World Championships ... In nine games for Lakeville North High School as a freshman in 2013-14, posted a 1.86 GAA and .931 save percentage, leading the team to the Minnesota Class 2A State Championship Game ... Was also a member of the Class 2A All-Tournament Team ... Selected to participate in the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team Development Camp ... Son of Kateri and Chris Oettinger ... Enrolled in the College of General Studies.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Masters in Chemistry: Keller and Bellows Set to Bring Unique On-Ice Connection to BU

By Neal E. Boudette, BU '84

In the bronze-medal game at this year’s U18 World Championships, Team USA was leading Canada 2-1 in the middle of the first period when the puck came to Clayton Keller in the left circle.

Many Terrier fans are hoping that what happened next is a preview of what’s coming to Agganis Arena this fall.

Keller, a BU recruit, had his back to the net. Glancing over his left shoulder, he spotted Kieffer Bellows, his teammate on the USA National Team Development Program this past season and also a Terrier recruit, drifting down from the blue line on the other side of the ice.

Rather than continue to his left, Keller suddenly spun around the opposite other way to his right, and in one motion whipped a blind pass across the ice. The puck threaded through three Canadian players caught off guard by the unexpected move, but the recipient wasn’t surprised in the least. Bellows reached the puck in full stride and one-timed it into the Canadian net.

You can see the play here at the 1:10 mark. If you haven’t seen it, it will make your jaw drop.

“That was probably our coolest,” Keller said when I sat down with him and Bellows in May, after an off-ice workout at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., where the NTDP program is based.

It was by no means their only head-spinning play during the 2015-16 season. Asked to recall a few highlights, their conversation mirrors their on-ice play. Keller to Bellows and back to Keller. It’s Keller who starts, and Bellows who finishes.

“The Youngstown one, “ Keller said.

“Yeah!” Bellows responded. “Our very first USHL game. Was it my first goal?”

“Your second goal.”

“Yeah, my second goal, where you kind of wrapped it around. Kells did this play behind the net where he fakes like he’s going around and he passes to me and the goalie’s already on the other side and I just shoot it in a wide-open net. Something we talked about doing, but didn’t’ know it would actually turn out.”

Keller is a likely top-15 pick in this month’s NHL draft while Bellows is seen as a middle to late first-rounder. They’re also considered sure-fire linemates when they arrive in Comm Ave. this fall.

They haven’t heard anything specific from Quinn about lines for next year, but Keller said he thinks the chances are pretty high it will happen.

Come October, you can bet Bernie Corbett will know their names and numbers by heart.

Keller and Bellows are part of a monster in-coming class of eight recruits that includes their NTDP teammates Chad Krys, a defenseman, and goaltender Jake Oettinger, as well as Canadian defenseman Dante Fabbro, another projected first-rounder.

This influx of talent will join a talented core featuring skilled forwards like sophomores Jordan Greenway and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and a loaded blueline featuring NTDP alum (and yet another possible first-rounder) Charlie McAvoy. The combination should again have BU in the hunt for titles next season.

For Coach Dave Quinn, could there be a more obvious no-brainer than to keep Keller and Bellows? Keller racked up 37 goals and 70 assists this year for 107 points, becoming only the third NTDP player to break the century mark in a single season. The others? Auston Matthews, the likely No. 1 pick this year, and another guy, name of Kane. Pretty good company.

Here’s what I think is the most impressive stat about Keller: He scored 9-12-21 in 12 games against D-1 teams this past season. So he averaged 1.75 points a game against college-level competition -- as a 17-year old. The kid doesn’t turn 18 until July 29.

Bellows, the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, merely led the NTDP U-18 squad in goals with 50, and added 31 assists. His 81 points were second only to Keller.

Bellows spent a year with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede before jumping to the NTDP U-18 team last fall. He hoped to play with Keller, who was a teammate once before in a Bauer Selects tournament in Russia.

“I knew he’d be very complementary to me,” Bellows said. “I came in [to NTDP] and Coach [Danton] Cole said I would be playing with Joey [Anderson, a UM-Duluth recruit] and Kells. It worked out pretty well. It’s worked our really well and we’ll see what the future holds at Boston.”

After the first couple games, “we started to realize what all three of us can do,” Keller explained. “I’m a passer. [Kieffer] is a shooter. Joey can do everything. Kiefer’s always getting open when I get the puck. It makes it easy for me. It’s just a matter of playing our game. So it’s pretty special.”

When I talked to them, both players expressed enthusiasm for putting on the scarlet and white, and getting the chance to skate with the top-end talent BU has.

“I’ve gotten to know Charlie from my official visit. I’ve gotten to know Jordan because his younger brother, JD, is my roommate. I know JFK pretty well. He’s a good guy. I got to play against him a lot my first year in juniors,” Bellows said. “From going there on my first visit – I don’t know if Kells feels the same way – but I felt they were a really close team, and they made us feel really comfortable, so I feel like we’ll fit right in.”

In pro hockey circles, speculation continues that Keller might defect to the OHL, where the Windsor Spitfires owns his rights. He recently told that he thinks the chances of him going to Windsor are “slim,” adding that BU is his “top choice” and “the best fit” for him.

When he spoke to me, he gave no indication of second thoughts to becoming a Terrier.

“We’re both headed to the [NHL] combine, then the draft, and then it’s off to BU in July for a month or so to get classes done,” he said.  “I know Jordan and Charlie from playing with them last year. So I’m just looking forward to meeting all the guys and getting to play and practice with them.”

Here are other highlights from my conversation:

Q: What was your first contact with BU and what convinced you that was where you wanted to go?

Keller: I can’t remember the exact date but it was the Select 15 festival in July 2014. That was my first get-to-know. They reached out to my family advisor and then I went on a visit that same year. I just really liked the facilities and Coach Quinn and Steve Greeley, when he was there, really made me feel comfortable, and just seeing all the great players who have come out of BU. It seemed like a good spot for me.

Q: Kieffer you mentioned a few weeks ago you wanted to go to a school where hockey was the main sports.

Bellows: I wanted to go to a school that’s mainly focused on hockey and you see that with BU. Their fans just love the game. They’re very passionate about it. My first contact with BU was right before the tryouts to come here to the U-17 program [in April 2014]. I took a visit out there and I just fell in love with it. I just knew it was something that I’d really be comfortable with, if I wanted to go there. Then I took my time and made my decision. I felt like it was the best decision because I knew if I went there I’d have a better shot at playing in the NHL one day, with the coaching staff of Quinn and Coach Young and Albie O’Connell.

Q: Did you have any influence on each other?

Keller: I didn’t know they were talking to [Kiefer] that much, but obviously I’m looking forward to playing with him. Last year Chad Krys wasn’t committed and I had a little bit of influence on him, just trying to get him to go to  BU, too. And obviously Jake Oettinger, too. I tried to get as many guys as I could who would help our team next year.

Q: What has NTDP meant for you?

Keller: Just being able to represent your country every day is something that is really special. Not every kid gets the opportunity to do that at such a young age. And everything they offer you here, with the weight training, the ice time, the nutrition, is really special. I think it was a great two years. I was really thankful I got to play here.

Bellows: It was a little different coming in during the second year. I can tell I really improved as a player with all the off-ice training. You have to learn to really respect everybody around with representing your country every day. It’s something you may never get the opportunity to do again, so you have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Q: How much have you gotten to know the college hockey scene in Boston?

Bellows: The first thing that pops into your head when you hear college hockey in Boston is the Beanpot. This year we got to see their first game and it was really cool to see what it’s actually like. Last year I watched it on TV, but to see it in person was really cool. To see the student sections and the fans and how much they love the game.

Q: And the BC rivalry? There are four NTDP players headed to BC, including a guy you may be shooting on, goalie Joe Woll.

Keller: Obviously they have a big rivalry and it’s just a battle.

Bellows: It’s funny. Each goalie from our [NTDP] team is going to each school. We chirp Joe how we’re going to score on him, and the guys going to BC chirp that they’re going to score on Jake next year.

Q: Why did you pick the college hockey route?

Keller: Just playing against older, stronger players is the biggest thing. Also the weight training in college is really good, and obviously you get your education. You grow as a person. I think those are the main things why I chose college.

Bellows: That’s really it. You’re playing against older guys who are possibly stronger than you. It’s good in case anything ever happens to have a [college degree] to fall back on. It’s something that a lot of guys don’t appreciate as much as they should. A degree is something you will need in the world. My dad played the OHL route. Back in Canada, that was the only route you did then. He went to college in the summer for like the first 10 years of his career just so he could get a degree and he’s using that right now. He’s said that’s probably one of the best decisions of his life to do that.

Neal Boudette cover automobiles for the New York Times and writes about hockey any chance he gets.