When you talk to Omaha Lancers head coach Mike Hastings about young center Brock Bradford, none of the discussion is directed towards Bradford’s recent move from the BCHL to the USHL. Hastings is adamant that the issue has nothing to do with either the player or himself, and will be resolved through each league’s federation. Hastings is more inclined to discuss Brock Bradford the player and person.
“One of the greatest compliments you can give to Brock is that he is as good or better kid than he is a hockey player,” Hastings told Hockey’s Future. “What drives him at the rink, also drives him away from the rink.”
Bradford is not without challenges, being a smaller skilled player poses difficulty for him regardless of the league he plays. But that doesn’t lessen Hastings’ opinion of his skilled player. “More and more small players are succeeding at a higher level and Brock Bradford will go as far as he decides he wants to. He is doing everything that it takes physically and mentally to succeed, so it is tough to put a ceiling on a player with that kind of determination.”
Brock Bradford made the difficult decision to leave his team in the BCHL, the Coquitlam Express, for a whole new set of surroundings in the USHL, the Omaha Lancers. The Lancers boast Mario Lemeiux and Luc Robitaille as part of their ownership group.
Roadblocks notwithstanding, Bradford is building a strong pedigree. He has just come off a fine season in the BCHL in 2003-04 where he didn’t reach his 17th birthday until half way through the season amassing 85 points in only 57 contests. He has played for his country twice in the last 10 months achieving a silver medal with Team Pacific in the World Under 17 championship in December of 2003 and topped his season off recently with a gold medal in the World Under 18 championship in Slovakia in August.
One thing that is apparent about Bradford is that his individual accomplishments take a backseat to being successful in the team environment.
Bradford spoke to Hockey’s Future after the Omaha Lancers played in the Chicago Steel home opener.
HF: The first question that comes to mind when people are learning about a top prospect such as yourself is what is their style of game and what player do they pattern themselves after?
BB: I try to look up to a lot of players but one that comes to mind is Joe Sakic. I think he is a great two-way player and is a great leader on the ice. He is the type of player that makes the guys around him better and he is the type of guy that other players enjoy playing with. That is what I am striving for.
HF: You have been selected twice for international competition, once for the Under 17 program and once for the Under 18 program. What has been the highlight for you so far?
BB: The Under 17 competition was a phenomenal experience playing with some of the best players in the country and winning silver was disappointing. But then going to the Under 18 World Championships and winning the gold medal for Canada has probably been my most memorable experience to date. It is such a thrill putting on a jersey that represents your country and you go on to win; it’s a pretty nice feeling.
HF: It is a new experience for you to be in the United States Hockey League. How does it feel so far?
BB: I am really excited to be down here. It is a bit of a learning experience playing here, not knowing what to expect. I know it is fast paced and pretty offensive hockey. I am just excited at the opportunity that Coach Hastings and the whole organization given me and hopefully I can take advantage of it.
HF: As far as the hockey is concerned are there any differences between playing in the BCHL and USHL?
BB: It is a little different, just with the rules, for example there are no two line passes, and they have touch icing but it is fairly similar, it is pretty tight checking out there. I have actually learned a lot already just defensively and my all-around game will get a lot better as the year goes on and I step into college next season. I am pretty excited about the possibilities.
HF: Do you have an idea of where you are going to go to college?
BB: Right now I am just looking at a few schools and I will probably decide fairly soon. I am going to take a little longer to look but then that decision will be over with. I mean, all the schools I have looked at are just great programs with solid schools and coaches. I am pretty sure that no matter where I go, I am going to develop into a good player.
HF: This is your draft year so any added pressure going into the season?
BB: It is always in the back of your mind. You just have to come out every game and play hard, you not only have to play for yourself, and you also have to play hard for your team. If you do that, and contribute, then the scouts are going to notice that contribution. They will see that you are contributing to a team success, and that is the biggest thing. Obviously, you hope to get drafted as high as you can, and only what I do on the ice can control that. So what I have to do is to continue playing hard every night.
HF: Any ideas of where you might be projected to go?
BB: I honestly have no idea. You really never know until draft day, but hopefully I can play myself into a higher position. There are a lot of great players in this draft, and I have a lot of respect for them, so I will be excited to get drafted wherever.
HF: Does the NHL lockout come to mind with talk about possibly canceling the 2005 draft and having a larger pool of players for the 2006 draft if and when the stand-off is settled?
BB: I haven’t really thought about it that much to be honest. But if it does happen, then I am just going to have two very good years back to back if you want to get drafted high. It will allow some players to develop a little more, and whenever the draft is, I hope I will have played well and I know I am working hard to get drafted and in the best spot possible.
HF: What goals do you have for this season in the USHL?
BB: Well coming in, I didn’t have any personal expectations. I knew I was coming into a great team with a lot of depth. I am really excited to be here and we have a great chance at winning the league, I think, and hopefully we can go far in the playoffs. It would be nice to win a USHL championship my last year of junior.
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