Growing up in Massachusetts players undoubtedly look at Boston College and think, “Wow, what does it take to play there?” There’s just something revered about the Eagles program.
Maybe it’s the history of their head coach, Jerry York, who has won more games than any head coach in NCAA hockey. Or it could be that they have produced top-NHL talent like Noah Hanifin, Jimmy and Kevin Hayes, Brian Gionta, Johnny Gaudreau. It might even be the fact that they have appeared in more NCAA Frozen Four tournaments in than any program in history.
Whatever it is, they’re doing something right. Just ask assistant Greg Brown, a former Eagles standout defenseman and two-time Olympian who hails from Southborough. Brown has been integral to BC’s successes at The Heights – successes that include three NCAA titles in his tenure.
So, when Brown and Co., are looking for the next class of elite players, what is it that they’re keeping in mind? Brown offers his take on the top five traits.
Mass Hockey: If you could rank which catches your eye, would it be hands, shot or skating? And when it comes to decision-making and instincts, how do you hone those?
Greg Brown: It's really a combination. Hockey sense is first. A player has to be able to play at pace – and that starts with thinking, then skating and having hands to make plays at speed too. Shot would be last because, if you can't think fast enough, you don't get many shots.
[For honing decision-making and instincts,] game situations in practice helps, plus small games and video work.
Mass Hockey: How important is a player’s attitude?
GB: Attitude is huge. Coaches want players who play with passion and are good teammates.
Mass Hockey: Is how polished a player is vital, or is part of the trick to forecast that?
GB: Polished vs. potential … There are no concrete rules here. Polished is nice, but, if you see a player is very smart but not physically mature, you can project that he is likely to get stronger.
Physical size and strength
Mass Hockey: Does it matter if you’re a big physical player or a smaller, speedy player? BC has had great success with players who are very big and very small, relative to the average college player.
GB: Every player needs some physical attributes that will allow them to be successful at higher levels. The biggest key is to have the hockey IQ to maximize the physical gifts they have.
Mass Hockey: Does where a player play rank as a factor?
GB: There is no magic route to college or higher levels of hockey. We find that most kids play better on teams they are excited to be a part of. Commitment, passion and effort are most important to development, so wherever he or she can maximize those qualities is best for that player.