By Phil Stacey
---- — Like a row of dominoes, it’s all set up nicely for Brian Pinho now.
He leaves Sunday for the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., where he’ll spend the next week with the Washington Capitals — who drafted him in the sixth round of this past Sunday’s NHL Draft — for the team’s annual Development Camp. It’ll be Pinho’s first chance to make a big impression on his new employers while wearing the Capitals’ colors.
When September hits, Pinho will pack his hockey bag and head off to Indianapolis, ready to spend the next seven-plus months playing in the country’s best Junior league, the Tier 1 United States Hockey League, for the Indiana Ice. He’ll play 64 regular season games (plus playoffs) in a 16-team, nine-state league where thousands of fans (and more than a few scouts) pack the barns to watch every night and players are put up by host families.
A little over a year from now in September 2014, he’ll take what he learned in the USHL with him to Providence College, where he’ll be a freshman skating for the Friars. And from there, his goal is to play pro hockey for the Capitals.
“It’s really like a job now,” said the former St. John’s Prep star center, who helped his team reach at least the Super 8 semifinals in each of his final three seasons of high school hockey (the first time that’s ever been done in school history).
“It’s been really crazy since Sunday ... fun, but definitely stressful. I’m trying to get ready for camp, get in touch with the team manager out of Washington and the player development guy talking about flights and all, while still going to the gym and skating. But I can’t wait to get going.”
The reigning Salem News Player of the Year, who finished his Eagles’ career with 35 goals and 101 points, got a good vibe when meeting with the Capitals before the draft. He already has a strong bond with the team’s regional scout, Ed McColgen (who could not be reached for comment last night), who had watched him play with St. John’s, the Valley Junior Warriors and at USA Hockey Development Camps and knew what skills Pinho had.
Anaheim, Boston, Montreal, the New York Islanders and Vancouver were other teams that had shown a lot of interest in Pinho; in fact, he found out after the fact that if Washington hadn’t chosen him with the 174th pick Sunday, Vancouver (which had the 175th selection) would have scooped him up.
Capitals Director of Amateur Scouting Ross Maloney told CSNWashington.com about Pinho’s intangibles that got him drafted by the team.
“Hard worker. I like his competitiveness,” he said of Pinho. “I like that every shift he gives everything he has. Smart player. Plays the point on the power play sometimes.”
Pinho spoke to McColgen yesterday morning about the upcoming Development Camp, and the veteran scout he offered the 6-foot, 173-pound pivot some sound advice.
“He told me, ‘Play hard and don’t be starstruck by the NHL guys. Just work hard and focus on what you need to do. You’re there now’,” Pinho said.
Pinho keeps a book of what he eats: peanut butter and crackers, almonds, protein shakes, roast beef sandwiches. He continues to train with Ben Bruno at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning in North Andover, working out these days with New York Rangers winger (and Boxford native) Chris Kreider. He also continues to do power skating with Beverly native Paul Vincent up at his old Eagles’ home rink, Ristuccia Arena, in Wilmington.
Naturally, former St. John’s teammates Colin Blackwell of Harvard (drafted in the 7th round by San Jose in 2011) and Boston University’s Sam Kurker (taken in the 2nd round by St. Louis in 2012) have been there to offer advice, encouragement and support throughout the draft process.
Pinho also said he has “absolutely no regrets” about spending four years playing high school hockey at St. John’s Prep.
“It’s obviously a great school which will prepare me for college,” said Pinho, who will take online classes while playing in the USHL. “Hockey-wise, we were an elite team the last three years, had great leaders like Colin and Sam, and the coaching staff was great to me. I loved every minute of it there; if I could do it all again, I’d definitely go back. They’ve gotten me to where I am today.”
“We have been very fortunate as a program to have been blessed with such talent both on and off the ice,” St. John’s head coach Kristian Hanson said of Pinho, who guided the Eagles to their first Catholic Conference title in 19 years this past winter.
Despite the hoopla of being drafted and the excitement that comes with it, Pinho realizes that playing professionally “is years away for me.” His goal is to better himself in the here and now — improving his shooting, his defensive zone coverage, and adjusting to the game at different speeds — first in Indiana, then Providence before the pros come calling.
“Indiana was the right place for me; it felt right when I was out there for tryouts (last month),” Pinho said. “The USHL is made to develop players; it’s more of a college/pro atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to it.”