Braden Doyle has a long-standing commitment to play at Boston University and his status as a hockey prospect got another boost this summer with his selection by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round of the National Hockey League Draft.
Doyle has achieved all of that despite seldom scoring goals in the four years since he was part of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School team that won the 2016 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 14U National Championship.
Given a chance to be a goal scorer for a night, however, Doyle made sure to enjoy the change of pace.
Doyle’s hat trick Dec. 6 led the Dubuque Fighting Saints, the team with the best winning percentage in the United States Hockey League, to a 5-2 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks. It also led to his selection as the USHL Defenseman of the Week.
“I’m not really big with goals,” Doyle said. “But it was a fun night.
“It was not what I would expect. I didn’t really go into that night thinking I was going to score a hat trick.”
Once two Doyle shots got through — one from the slot and one from the wing on a partial breakaway on the power play — he was not about to miss when a third opportunity arose.
“The first two were just shots where I’m trying to score obviously, but I didn’t go out of my way to try to score,” Doyle said. “On the third one, I kind of took it from the blue line to the net.
“I wanted that one real bad.”
Always aware of his primary responsibility on the ice, the 18-year-old defenseman from Lynnfield, Massachusetts, made sure not to take too big a chance.
“We were up 4-2, so it could have been an unnecessary situation, but it was there,” Doyle said. “All I had to do was skate. It wasn’t a really risky play.”
Doyle has scored 19 goals over the past four seasons, much of that time as one of New England’s top prep school players at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts.
“I grew up loving the offensive defenseman style of hockey and I used to score goals when I was younger, but then I got molded into a different player,” Doyle said. “I’ve played with some really great players where it’s fun to make plays and give them the puck.
“I’m not a big goal scorer. Yeah, I love to score, but I’m really a pass-first guy.”
Doyle spent time this offseason at a development camp with other Kings prospects, getting a sneak peek at what his future could hold. He plans to spend one season in the USHL, the nation’s only Tier I junior league, before reporting to Boston University.
“The reason I came to the USHL, is to keep working on my defensive game and when I choose to use the skills,” Doyle said. “I think I need to play a smart style of hockey and I’m aware of bringing all the tools to a team — when it’s goals or good solid defense. But what I really pride myself on is I’m a good breakout guy.”
Again surrounded by good teammates, Doyle had his offensive outburst and his strong defensive game is getting support during a 16-3-1-0 start by the Fighting Saints.
“It’s a credit to [coach Oliver David] and our assistant coaches,” Doyle said. “They preach, ‘Nothing casual, want to win and want to learn.’ Those are the three things we look at every day.
“ … He’s always teaching the forwards to track, so we get a lot of help defensively. We work on not turning the puck over, like keeping it simple entering the zone. It’s a real simple way of looking at hockey, but it works.”
It has worked for Doyle recently. He has scored in seven of the last nine games, with 10 total points during that time, and is fifth among USHL defensemen with 14 points in 20 games.
And, it has worked for the Fighting Saints, who have allowed 10 fewer goals than any other USHL team.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Gassman.