When the NHL Draft finally goes on the clock — whenever that might be — Ian Moore will be watching. But his vision will reach beyond the screen.
“Everyone’s dream is to play in the NHL, not just get drafted,” he said. “Every team has first-round, second-round, seventh-round, undrafted guys. It doesn’t matter if you get picked, where you get picked, if you don’t. That’s been my mind-set the whole time. This doesn’t change much.”
Moore knows no different. The 18-year-old defenseman from Concord, the top-rated prep skater in Massachusetts, is one of hundreds of NHL Draft prospects who are using this stifled time to train and do, well, not much else.
After blooming late at St. Mark’s School, he rose to No. 47 among North American skaters, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. He has the kind of length (6 feet 3 inches), skating ability, and mind for the game that a team will be happy to draft and develop as he moves from the USHL (Chicago, next season) and ECAC (Harvard, expected arrival 2021).
Since he only has one summer class left before graduating — an English course — and he’s stuck at home like the rest of us, Moore’s days are all hockey, all the time.
His parents, Michael (a sales director for Cisco Systems) and Stephanie (a cardiologist at Edith Nourse Rogers Veterans Hospital in Bedford) have been working from home upstairs. In the basement, Moore and 19-year-old brother Nolan (also a defenseman, committed to Middlebury) work with a setup that would impress the pros.
They have a bench press with a bar, a rack of dumbbells up to 50 pounds, a pulldown machine, and a leg press machine.
“My brother and I built that,” said Moore, who hopes to add bulk beyond his 175 pounds. “It took a little longer than expected. The directions said three hours, but I think we put a few bolts on the wrong way.”
They have medicine balls, bands, and yoga mats. A homemade weight-on-a-string forearm curl. A Peloton stationary bike. They use it all, stretch and watch film, then go outside to shoot and stickhandle pucks.
“It’s a little tough to do full-on drills,” Moore said, “but we try to keep the mechanics nice.”
They do sprints on the track at the middle school down the street. To keep their reflexes sharp, the brothers play at least an hour of ping-pong a day. They work on breathing and mindfulness. They also lace up their rollerblades on their outdoor basketball court, which their father partly covered with “sport court” plastic tiles.
“Not many people have something like that,” he said, after describing the whole lot. “We’re thankful.”
Theirs certainly isn’t the only way to train. Fellow draft prospect Sam Colangelo, of Stoneham, told Sports Illustrated he uses supplies from his parents’ restaurant, Local 438 Grille & Sport.
“Some of the food boxes are super heavy,” said Colangelo, who plays for the Chicago Steel (USHL), is heading to Northeastern, and is 31st on Central Scouting’s list. “I think it was boxes of steak meat — I was doing farmer carries and shoulder shrugs with them. It was kind of funny. Then out back, I have some rocks and I was putting them in this backpack and using it as a weight vest.”
The Bruins follow specialized programs for each player, delivered by their trainers and team coaches. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, though he has filled his small Seaport apartment with some equipment ordered online, leans on the basics. He runs outside, and keeps his hands soft by using old standbys: a stick and a ball, and some cups as obstacles.
Like the pros, Moore hopes he hasn’t lost much of his skill.
“I think it’ll come back in a minute or two on the ice,” he said. “The skating stride, and the hands you lose a little bit, but I think I’ve gained a lot of strength, so hopefully I’ll be a little bit faster. My shot is definitely harder. If you shoot pucks every day . . . just playing the actual game might take some getting used to. But I’ve been watching a lot of video. Hopefully I’ll be a little bit better.”
Like the NFL, the NHL is likely to supplant its postponed draft with a virtual affair sometime this summer. Moore will almost certainly not hear his name during a hockey festival in Montreal, wearing his best suit and hugging his loved ones before meeting the team’s brass, posing for photos and starring in a news conference. He would instead monitor his computer screen and, hopefully, get a phone call. Instead of spring showcase games and combines — all canceled — he has been doing interviews with teams on the phone or video chat.
It’s different, but you only get one shot at this, so why not enjoy it?
“It’s every kid’s dream to interact with NHL teams,” said Moore, who estimates he’s spoken with the majority of clubs. “They’re all hockey guys who want to talk hockey. It can be a little nerve-racking, but it’s definitely fun. I’m pretty fortunate to have the opportunity.”
The draft is but one puzzle of this kinda-sorta-not offseason the NHL is trying to solve. The league and the NHLPA this past week formed a “return to play” committee, involving executives on both sides and several players. They hope to trickle back onto the ice this month. But before that, they want to answer a slew of questions: Which cities could have the space and relative safety needed to host groups of teams in a summer restart (Columbus? Dallas? Edmonton? Toronto?)? What should be the testing guidelines for players and staff? What is an equitable schedule for a restarted training camp, games, and playoffs? What are the implications for next season?
Moore, several years away from his peak as a player, is a long way from worrying about how the league and its labor force walks an uncertain path in a global pandemic. He’s still very much a kid.
In a series of videos posted on Twitter, he and his St. Mark’s teammates keep straight faces as they show their oddball workout routines.
Defenseman Jake Oblak, working on his gap control, flicks a tennis ball at a wall. In full equipment and sneakers in his yard, he rushes, then retreats as it bounces back. Forward Danny Ciccarello, noting the importance of nutrition, uses a knife taped to his stick to slice and dice a cucumber on a plate. Defenseman Tucker Hartmann, demonstrating how to walk the blue line, keeps his head up as he goofily smacks a slapper from a pile of leaves.
For his part, Moore shows the fundamentals of blocking shots. He explains how St. Mark’s coach Carl Corazzini, a former Bruins winger, demands that his teams allow five or fewer shots per period. Moore, in full equipment and rollerblades, takes orange plastic balls off the shins and knees, and finishes with a full layout and quick swipe to clear the slot.
“Hey coach, you’ll like that shift!” he shouts.
A few days later, he’s speaking with a reporter and sounds a bit older as he muses about these unique days.
“So much free time,” he says, “and nowhere to go.”
Might as well use it.
MATTER OF TRUST
Cehlarik’s time seems to be up
A prediction: The Bruins’ RFA business will not be like that of last year, when Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo took contract discussions into training camp.
Projecting contracts in this sports economy is a fool’s errand, but based on last season’s production, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, and Matt Grzelcyk are unlikely to break the Black-and-Gold bank. Bright futures, all. No reason we aren’t looking at a pair of future top-six wingers and a power-play quarterback.
But it’s easy to see all of those players combined making less than $10 million on new deals (DeBrusk highest among them, potentially around $3.5 million per annum).
One restricted free agent who has surely seen the last of the Spoked-B: Peter Cehlarik.
The Slovak winger, who never earned the trust of Bruce Cassidy, is saying as much to reporters in his home country.
"They know what they are doing,” he said last month, according to a translation of an interview at Sport.sk. “They invested years of education in me. It's all about the trust from the coach that I don't get. I still hear I'm ready for the NHL, I have it, but when it goes like this, I need a change and a new start. It's high time.”
Sometimes, he added, he felt Cassidy was “just waiting for my mistake and could send me back to the farm.”
Cehlarik, 24, played three games this season and 40 since the Bruins drafted him in the third round (90th overall) in 2013. Though big-bodied (6-2, 202) and skilled, something between staff and player was lost in translation. It happens.
Sanderson’s son one American to watch
Ian Moore is one of two Massachusetts high school players ranked by NHL Central Scouting among the top 100 North American skaters. The other is Lawrence Academy center Riley Duran (95th), a Providence commit who hails from Woburn. Norwell’s Drew Commesso, who played at St. Sebastian’s before joining the U18 team, is ranked second among North American goalies. He is committed to Boston University.
The top-ranked American in the draft (fourth among North American skaters) is Jake Sanderson, a swift-skating defenseman for the U18s. Sanderson, from Whitefish, Mont., is the son of Geoff Sanderson. Jake’s old man scored 30 goals six times, including 40 twice with the Whalers (1992-93, 1993-94), and had some of the best straightaway speed of his era.
As we look at the NHL Draft, keep in mind the Bruins do not have a first-round pick. They shipped it to Anaheim, along with 75 percent of David Backes’s salary and defense prospect Axel Andersson, for Ondrej Kase. That trade happened on Feb. 21 . . . which was about six years ago.
Chara in no mind to stop soon
In an extended interview on Sportsnet’s “After Hours,” Zdeno Chara made it sound like he wants to give it another go.
“I’m still in the present, and I still believe that we’re going to play some sort of hockey this season,” the 43-year-old defenseman said. “I’m not getting too ahead of myself. Obviously, I still love the game. I still love going out there and [competing], and if everything is right, I still want to play.”
Would you bet against Chara playing until he’s 45?
The NHL’s return-to-play committee reportedly includes, from the league, commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, hockey ops director Colin Campbell, and scheduling wizard Steve Hatze Petros; NHLPA director Donald Fehr, assistant Mathieu Schneider, general counsel Don Zavelo, and player rep Steve Webb; and players Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Mark Scheifele, James van Riemsdyk, and Ron Hainsey (the last of whom, at 39, wants to finish this season before considering his future) . . . The Flyers signed Swedish winger Linus Sandin, who attended Bruins development camp in 2019. His brother, Rasmus, is a defenseman and one of the Maple Leafs’ brightest prospects. The Sandin signing, among others this past week, was able to happen because the NHL extended its transfer agreements with a host of pro leagues (Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and the Canadian major junior leagues, and signed a new deal with Switzerland. The agreements, all of which are for one year, allow players to move more freely between the leagues, with the NHL kicking in transfer fees that boost the programs in those nations. Russia is the only major hockey-producing country that isn’t buying into this system . . . Bruins fourth-liner Anton Blidh has been skating in Sweden, where that is permitted. Not clear if fellow Swedes Joakim Nordstrom and Par Lindholm have been doing the same . . . ESPN reported the arena construction projects in Seattle and Elmont, N.Y. (Islanders) remain on track for the start of the 2021-22 season. While work at the Long Island site was halted by the coronavirus, the Seattle Somethingorothers’ overhaul of the former KeyArena has continued nearly unbothered . . . Joel Ward announced his retirement after 11 years. Ward, who last played in San Jose in 2018, is remembered here as a Capital. In 2012, his Game 7 OT goal knocked the defending Cup champ Bruins out of the first round. He said it was a career highlight. Quite a run for the undrafted son of Barbadian immigrants to Canada. He might get into coaching . . . Social distancing to the extreme: Bruins goaltender prospect Jeremy Swayman has been hiking the Chugach Mountains, outside of his hometown of Anchorage. Swayman, who had a spectacular career at Maine, was a Hobey Baker Award finalist (top college player), and won the Mike Richter Award (top goaltender), could vie for the Providence net next season, if he ever comes down . . . Best wishes to ex-NHL tough guy Georges Laraque, who said he tested positive for COVID-19. “I guess I’m not invincible,” he tweeted. “Since I’m asthmatic, not the best news, will fight it off!” . . . Feel-good recruiting news: Graysen Cameron, who survived the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 in April 2018, committed to Division 3 Northland College in Ashland, Wis. Cameron spent 2018-19 recovering from a broken back . . . Saturday marked 52 days since the March 12 pause. Here we declare that Sean Kuraly is the best No. 52 in Bruins history. The others to wear the number: Petr Prajsler (1992), David Emma (1997), Carl Corazzini (2004), Nate Thompson (2007), Zach Hamill (2010-12), Matt Lindblad (2014-15), and Matt Irwin (2016) . . . Before Ray Bourque doubled his 7s to honor Phil Esposito in December 1987, the Bruins had never issued a regular-season sweater higher than No. 42 (Bob Sweeney, who debuted the previous year) . . . No Bruin has ever worn No. 69, 78, 84, 85, 87, or 93-99 in a regular-season game . . . Joan Kilban, a Hingham fifth-grade teacher, is one of three finalists for the NHL and NHLPA’s Most Valuable Teacher award. Kilban, who has spent 24 years at Plymouth River Elementary and was a student there, uses the Bruins to teach math and science concepts, to wit: A Chara bodycheck transfers a lot of kinetic energy to an opposing forward, and Brad Marchand can dangle through defensemen at angles both acute and obtuse. Kilban, a Weymouth resident (yes, her favorite player is Charlie Coyle), won the NHL’s "teacher of the month” honor for March from an online write-in vote across North America. Voting for the big prize is open from May 4-8 at NHL.com/MVT. The winner was to be invited to the (now-postponed) NHL Awards in Las Vegas . . . Prepare for a week of rosy Black-and-Gold memories. Next Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the day a 22-year-old Bobby Orr flew into hockey immortality. In addition to several upcoming pieces in the Globe, we also recommend consuming the NHL Network documentary “Big, Bad & Bobby” (8 p.m. Sunday, May 10). Full of archival footage and interviews with plenty of characters from that era, it tells a story that will never get old.