2022 NHL Draft hope: Isaac Howard is one of the best skaters in the class

The United States National Team Development Program has established itself as one of the best NHL player factories in the world. Last year was a bit of an anomaly with only a few high-end draft entrants, but the class of 2022 again includes several players at the top of the roster.

The development system brings together the best young players in the United States and develops them through a series of levels as they progress to professional play. Sometimes there are players who prove too strong for their assigned section, and that was the case last season for 16-year-old Isaac Howard.

Scoring 27 goals and an equal number of assists at Under-17 level, he won time with the Under-18 side. Goals were harder to come by among the more advanced players, but he still managed to be a point-per-game player, and that really put him on the map for the 2022 NHL Draft.

Place of birth: Hudson, Wis.
Date of Birth: March 30, 2004
Shots: Left
Position: left wing
Height: 5’10”
Mass: 183 pounds.
Team: US National Team Development Program

Another year of maturity saw him lead the Under-18 team in points this season with 82 in 60 games, and he eclipsed the points-per-game mark while with the Under-18 team. 20 in 27 USHL games, topping that group in points. as well. His year-on-year progress was evident at the recent Under-18 World Championship, where his name once again found itself in first place in the team standings with 11 points from six matches. Four of his six goals came in the opener against Team Canada, a performance that sparked the interest of scouts and analysts.

Elite Prospects

What observers saw of the eventual tournament silver medalist was the exceptional skating ability around which his game is built. His mobility is among the best to be found among the 2022 prospect crop, both in terms of speed and agility when changing direction. Good balance in its 5’10” frame keeps it stable enough to get a powerful shot after a quick cut.

This makes him difficult to defend against, so he was able to head straight for the net throughout his junior career. He throws a lot of shots, and they come from close leading to a lot of goals or at least bounce off a goalkeeper with little time to react.

When he’s not the one holding the puck himself, he’s very good at getting into position to accept a pass for a shot, much like Cole Caufield used to do with the program. He stays on the move to keep passing lanes open, finding an area that gives him room to work.

In the defensive zone, he’s always looking for ways to get the puck and sprint down the ice with it on his stick, usually by intercepting passes. He is described as a competitive off-puck player who is constantly trying to win the ball, however, as the microstats show, he has failed to convert that effort into impact.

Mitch Brown’s follow-up project

When he wrests control of the puck from an opponent, it can quickly turn into a goal on the opposite end, but if he prefers to grab the puck and run away, his other transition abilities aren’t as effective. He is sometimes too eager to show his speed and runs down the ice before a teammate has possession. When skating the puck over the blue line isn’t an option, he struggles to connect on a pass.

This lagging ability to include teammates in the game is seen in all three areas; in his low exit and entry success rates as he tries to cross the blue lines, as well as his shot assist number which is significantly lower than his own shot rate.

For some players, you might blame this on not having teammates who can keep up with their play, but that doesn’t apply in this case. He’s spent the entire season — at all three levels he’s competed at — on the wing of Frank Nazar, who is perhaps an even better skater than Howard.

It doesn’t show in his high assist totals, but the data being tracked paints a picture of a player not being a strong passer. He is too focused on doing all the work himself. and his ability to use his teammates lags significantly behind his other talents.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: N/R
FCHockey: #38
Hockey Prospect: #20
McKeen: #31
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #15
NHL Central Scouting: #9 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #12
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #23

Debating how these high level skills weigh on his weaknesses can be seen throughout his rankings, as some outlets place him in the top half of the first round, and others place him much further down the ladder. list – or not on the list at all. .

The main question for teenagers entering the draft is: Can the abilities that worked well against their younger peers translate to the NHL level? In Howard’s case, with much of his success relying on his speed, there’s some doubt about his ability to adapt to better defense at higher levels, especially when he’s struggling. rely on others, even now. He can be a good finisher for a big game center like Nazar, but right now he demands that linemate do the heavy lifting of making the plays.

Does he just not have the vision and awareness to be as good a preparer as he is a finisher, or is it just that he’s always had so much success using just his speed and shooting that he doesn’t didn’t have to really expand his game and passing games? He has a good understanding of how to make the option for his teammates, and must now realize that his teammates are trying to do the same for him.

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