Canucks’ top pick Brock Boeser already shining in second season with North Dakota
Brock Boeser’s college hockey résumé is a pretty lengthy read. There's All-America honors to go with NCHC achievements like Rookie of the Year and Academic All-Conference Team, All-NCHC First Team and All-NCHC Rookie Team, the league’s conference and overall scoring titles, University of North Dakota’s Male Freshman of the Year and a National Title to his credit.
Oh, and he’s just nine games into his sophomore season at UND.
“I couldn't have asked for a better season,” Boeser said of his first go-round. “Going in, I didn't think was going to be that successful. I really think that I took a huge step my freshman year, developmental-wise, and I really think, the group of guys we had was the reason I had the success I did.”
The success piled up along with the points for the Vancouver Canucks’ top pick, No. 23 in the 2015 draft. There were numerous weekly and monthly accolades as he finished the 2015–16 season as the third-highest scorer in Division I with 60 points in 42 games, ranking fourth in goals (27) and sixth in assists (33), marking one of the best rookie seasons in North Dakota history. Boeser joined alum Zach Parise (2002-03) as the school’s only first-year players to eclipse the 50-point mark in the last 35 years.
How does a guy follow up one of such an opening act? For the 6' 1″ power forward, it meant eschewing the professional ranks and coming back for more.
“After he won the National Championship, it took him a day,” Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry said. “He comes into the office and says 'Hey coach, I want to come back, I realize the things I've accomplished, but I need to get better in a few different areas and I want to make sure that when I do leave, I'm ready to leave.’ He's grounded, he's very mature and he knows that it's a marathon, not a sprint to get to the next level.”
That sophistication was apparent when the team named its captains for the 2016-17 season. The 19-year-old Boeser was among the five assistants, becoming the first sophomore to wear an ‘A’ on his jersey since Jonathan Toews in 2006-07.
“It's a good role for me to have,” Boeser said. “I think it's a different role for me to have than last year. I kind of have to be the role model to the freshmen and just make sure I'm continuing to be a leader in the locker room during games and practices. I'm not afraid to say something between periods in the locker room. I remember last year, even as a freshman, I wasn't afraid to say some stuff between periods in the locker room. I take pride in that.”
The Canucks won’t have much to complain about if he develops his leadership qualities to *accompany* his natural instincts, sniper's release and elite-level scoring potential, all qualities honed during a life of hockey in Minnesota.
“I first skated when I was two, it was in my family,” he said. “My dad and all his brothers played, growing up I went to all my brother's games, I also went to watch my cousin [Dan] play college hockey at Wisconsin. I think just from the start, it was something I loved. I always had a hockey stick in my hand when I was a little kid.”
He’s come a long way since then, but knows he still has work to do en route to the next level, citing his second year with the Fighting Hawks as a chance to take his game “to another level.” He wants to get faster, more explosive, improve on his wall work and defensive play while honing the every aspect of his game. Berry sees a commitment to physical development and continued pursuit of consistency already. It helps that Boeser gets to pick some pretty famous alumni minds, as NHLers likes Parise, T.J. Oshie, Drew Stafford and Taylor Chorney visit and train at their old stomping grounds throughout the year .
“It's kinda cool to talk to them and hear about North Dakota when they played here, he said. “Just being able to train with them you can learn a lot.”
He’s picked up a few pointers from his hockey role models, even channeling Oshie on a penalty shot early on this season. It’s fair to say they’ve taken notice of their training partner.
“He's got skill, strength,” Oshie said. “He has a great hockey sense and a good work ethic. You put all that together, you've got a pretty special hockey player. You can tell, there are some players that just stand out, some players that you watch the game, and even if you don't know anyone, you can look and say hey, who's this Boeser kid? You can tell he's got an extra gear to him. He's fun to watch. He's going to have a great career one day.”
In the meantime, Boeser is enjoying playing in front of the North Dakota fans—they travel well and even invite him to prom. So far in his sophomore season, he’s racked up seven goals and 13 points, currently tied for eighth in national scoring with four multi-point efforts as the Hawks (5–3–1) defend their championship as one of the favorites to win it all again.
It begs the question: What happens if Boeser and UND do it all, again?
“I haven't decided yet,” he said “I'm trying to taking it day-by-day, and at the end of the year, we'll see what happens. I've matured a lot since I've gotten here, but I think part of the reason I stayed a second year here is to mature and develop more, and make sure I always have high compete level and make sure it's consistent.”
“I know that my work's not done, and it's only part of the process.”