June 15, 2024

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Logan Cooley’s hockey journey – from ‘Little Penguin’ to high 2022 NHL draft prospect

7 min read
Logan Cooley’s hockey journey – from ‘Little Penguin’ to high 2022 NHL draft prospect

Rising up in Pittsburgh as an Alex Ovechkin fan wasn’t all the time straightforward for Logan Cooley.

“I undoubtedly bought numerous hate for that,” mentioned Cooley, an 18-year-old middle for the U.S. Nationwide Improvement group and a high 2022 NHL draft prospect. “I used to be an enormous Ovechkin fan. Beloved the way in which he performed. Beloved the way in which he scored objectives. I simply noticed him on the Caps and have become an enormous Capitals fan.”

Cooley was the one Capitals fan in his buddy group deep within the coronary heart of Pittsburgh Penguins nation. Which made issues awkward when the Penguins appeared to have their rivals’ quantity within the playoffs — till they did not.

“Undoubtedly numerous heartbreak for Caps followers. However 2018 was yr,” Cooley mentioned, referencing the postseason when Washington went by the Penguins en path to successful the Stanley Cup.

His Ovechkin fandom could possibly be interpreted as a logo of insurrection or a failure of indoctrination. Cooley really bought his begin in hockey because of Ovechkin’s nemesis, Sidney Crosby.

“He began off as a Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguin, as a part of the ’04s [birth year], the primary group we had,” mentioned David Morehouse, former president of the Penguins and the chief who helped begin Crosby’s youth hockey program in Pittsburgh.

Crosby approached Morehouse together with his want to create a program that might allow native athletes who could not afford to play hockey with the chance to play it. The 2 sat down for lunch at a Pittsburgh Marriott and mapped it out: Crosby was with Reebok; the Penguins had Dick’s Sporting Items as a group sponsor; and each the captain and his group had been keen to entrance their very own cash.

Thus, “Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins” had been born.

“Sid did not develop up a wealthy child. For him, it was vital to remove numerous these monetary boundaries so youngsters can attempt the sport he loves a lot,” mentioned Morehouse.

The manager and his captain pushed each sponsors to ultimately cowl each piece of apparatus the gamers wanted — from head to toe, together with their jersey and a gear bag.

“I keep in mind after we first printed the jerseys, the thought was that every one the gamers would put on totally different numbers,” Morehouse mentioned. “However everybody needed 87. So each jersey had Sid’s quantity on it.”

Within the first yr of this system in 2008, the group had 400 youngsters between the ages of 4 and seven join. Considered one of them was Logan Cooley.

“I all the time form of grew up round hockey,” Cooley mentioned. “My mother and father determined to place me in [the Little Penguins] and ever since then I’ve beloved the sport.”

He had two uncles who performed Division I school hockey. Each of his brothers performed — his older brother Eric competed for Ohio State this previous season.

“I used to be the primary to do the Crosby program. I do not keep in mind an excessive amount of as a result of I used to be round 4 years previous,” Cooley mentioned. “They gave you free gear, the prospect to skate round and have enjoyable on the market. That is what I actually keep in mind. After which any time you had Crosby on the market and also you be taught from among the best gamers on the planet, that is fairly cool at such a younger age.”

Cooley mentioned this system did not lean too closely into something Crosby was doing on the ice.

“I believe everybody at the moment was simply making an attempt to face up on their skates,” he mentioned. “However [Crosby] meant rather a lot. Any time you might have an opportunity to be taught from Crosby it is nice. I bought an opportunity to look at him each night time in Pittsburgh. Simply seeing how he’s as an individual and as a participant.”

As a participant, Cooley emulates Patrick Kane greater than he does both Crosby or Ovechkin. He is listed at 5-foot-10, similar as Kane.

“Him being the identical top as me, I watched how he used his talent to maneuver round greater guys,” Cooley mentioned. “How good his hockey IQ is. Such a enjoyable participant to look at. I undoubtedly took stuff from him and used it in my sport.”

The NHL at this time is way friendlier for a participant of Cooley’s measurement than it was when Kane was chosen first total by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007. Cooley ticks off the names of undersized stars akin to Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Hughes and Trevor Zegras who excelled this season.

Within the case of Zegras, he excelled as a rookie whereas populating the spotlight reel, which is one thing Cooley famous.

“He is a man that when Anaheim is on, you are watching him,” he mentioned. “Particularly as a fellow USNDT man. The passes he is pulling off. The Michigan that he is doing. He isn’t afraid to attempt something on the market and I believe I am that form of participant, too.”

The U.S. Nationwide Improvement program has hit the board with excessive frequency in current NHL drafts. Luke Hughes went No. 4 to the New Jersey Devils final yr, whereas Tyler Boucher went No. 10 to the Ottawa Senators. Jake Sanderson was No. 5 total to Ottawa in 2020. The Devils took Jack Hughes at No. 1 in 2019, whereas the Los Angeles Kings chosen Alex Turcotte at No. 5.

Cooley firmly expects to be a top-three choice within the NHL draft subsequent week, with the primary spherical set for Thursday night time in Montreal (7 ET, ESPN).

“It is a vary of 1-2-3. However something can occur on draft day,” he mentioned. “It is a bizarre draft. There is not a consensus No. 1.”

Montreal has the highest choose, adopted by the Devils and the Arizona Coyotes. If middle Shane Wright goes No. 1 as many nonetheless count on, would Cooley know the place he is headed?

“I do not know. Does New Jersey desire a winger or …?” Cooley contemplated. “I actually do not know. Arizona has confirmed numerous curiosity. Nevertheless it’s powerful to say proper now.”

He admits that he has saved his eye on the mock drafts being printed main as much as the primary spherical.

“I might be mendacity if I mentioned I did not,” he mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s one thing you can’t pay an excessive amount of consideration to as a result of it will probably get in your head and mess along with your sport. Now that the season’s over, nothing actually happening, you possibly can take a look at them a little bit bit extra.”

With these mock drafts come scouting reviews on Cooley’s sport, which he is studying with curiosity if not taking them to coronary heart.

“You are all the time going to wish to take a look at the principally great things,” he mentioned. “However there are some individuals who say my two-way sport is unhealthy, little issues like that. So you’ve some blended emotions. Nevertheless it would not change me as a participant.”

There are facets of his sport he’d like to enhance earlier than he is drafted. “Getting stronger. Getting tougher to maneuver off the puck,” Cooley mentioned. “I wish to proceed to work on my two-way sport, turning into even higher defensively. After which my shot. Having the ability to rating from farther out. These are the three issues I am engaged on to change into an much more impactful participant within the NHL.”

A few of that work may occur at a brand new Pittsburgh-based summer season league through which Cooley is collaborating.

Minnesota has “Da Magnificence League.” Pittsburgh did not have a summer season league for its NHL gamers, so the GOAT League began this summer season. Cooley has performed in a few video games. Vancouver Canucks middle J.T. Miller, Carolina Hurricanes middle Vincent Trocheck and Buffalo Sabres middle Zemgus Girgensons are among the many NHLers collaborating.

“I skated with them final summer season a little bit bit,” Cooley mentioned. “Talked with them a little bit bit. Not likely concerning the draft or something like that.”

Miller holds the excellence of being the highest-drafted participant from the Pittsburgh space, having gone fifteenth total to the New York Rangers in 2011.

“Not for lengthy,” Miller instructed the Penguins web site, referencing Cooley. “I hear he is going fairly early, so I am comfortable for him. I hear he is a heck of a participant and I am excited to be watching him. It is good to see all of the expertise nonetheless frequently popping out of Pittsburgh.”

Particularly now that Little Penguins have gotten big-time prospects.

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