By Bill Keefe
For a hockey player entering his sophomore year in high school, Brandon Shea has accomplished quite a bit.
The Marshfield, Mass., center already has played two years of prep school hockey at Noble and Greenough, posting 23 points as an eighth-grader and 34 as a freshman. In June 2010, he accepted an offer to join Boston College for the fall of 2014. This past March, Shea was invited to join USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program before the Final 40 tryout camp even began.
And then, in June, the Moncton Wildcats made a gamble. Without a prior commitment from Shea to join the team, they traded three draft choices, including a first-rounder next year, to obtain the 13th pick in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft to select him.
“We feel he’s got a very good shot at the pros, and that’s why we drafted him in the first round,” said Leo Gould, New England scout for the Wildcats. “We feel with all the games they get and coaching and training, he’ll progress, and we think he’s going to be an NHLer. He can go that route and still get his education.”
As a 15-year-old in the QMJHL draft, Shea had to be selected in the first five rounds or else he would have gone back into the draft next year. It was expected by many that a team may take a flier on him in the fourth or fifth round to obtain his rights and pursue him down the road. It was a surprise when Moncton made the move to grab him in the first round.
From the moment of the selection, the speculation started about Shea making the jump to major junior. American players are rarely drafted that high without assurance they will report, especially a player such as Shea, who had high-end commitments. Considering that, and Moncton’s heavy investment, it figured the Wildcats would make a strong push to land Shea. In addition, both the QMJHL and the Moncton organization in particular are increasing their efforts to gain exposure with — and recruit — American players, especially emphasizing the education packages they offer.
Not long after turning 16 on June 30, Shea and his family did their research, talked to numerous people and weighed all the options available to them. Ultimately, they decided that going to Moncton was the best choice for Brandon.
“We went up and took a visit (in early July),” said Neil Shea, Brandon’s father. “We drove up and spent the day and drove back. We met (owner) Mr. (Robert) Irving, (head coach) Danny (Flynn) and all the coaches. They were quality people and made Brandon feel comfortable.
“Mr. Irving is nothing but a very professional guy, a lot of integrity. He assured me my son would be OK. He is a man of his word or he wouldn’t be as successful as he is.
“At the end of the day, my wife and I and our son sat down and talked about the things we wanted in place, with school being the most important. He will get his education. Mr. Irving has great family values, the way he treats every player the same. We have a very good feeling sending him there. We’re excited to see what the next three years bring. He wants to do it, and I’ve never seen Brandon more excited about anything.”
Shea’s move comes on the heels of other high-profile American players making — or close to making, at press time — the move to major junior.
Locally, Boston University lost a commitment from defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, 15, the youngest player ever to play in the USHL, when the OHL’s Sarnia Sting drafted him and then signed him earlier this month.
BU also may lose out on forward Adam Erne (North Branford, Conn.), 16, who had 10 goals and 28 points this past season for the Indiana Ice in the USHL. Erne was drafted in the second round of the QMJHL draft (22nd overall) by Halifax, but his rights have since been traded to Quebec for two first-round picks and a second-rounder. French-language Quebec newspaper Le Soleil on July 12 quoted Quebec owner and general manager Patrick Roy as saying Erne was coming to the Remparts, but nothing was official at press time.
Forward and Ohio native J.T. Miller, the New York Rangers’ first-round pick after two years with the NTDP, is widely reported to be joining the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, but that also was not official at press time.
Brandon Shea’s decision to go to Moncton should not cast any negative light toward the NTDP or Boston College, Neil Shea stressed.
“I’m not bashing Ann Arbor; it’s a great program,” Neil Shea said. “Boston College is tremendous. This was just the right decision for us and where he felt the most comfortable.”
Adding to the difficulty in the decision-making process is the fact that Neil Shea played at BC in the ’80s and has remained a prominent figure as a scout for the Colorado Avalanche, and a coach in the South Shore Kings and Dynamos programs. Brandon grew up all things maroon and gold.
“It was a difficult call to make,” Neil Shea said. “They handled it well. They were very good about it; not mad, but not happy. They were very professional. It could have taken another route, but they didn’t and I am grateful for that.”
Brandon Shea has both skill and size at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. Having just turned 16, the hope and expectation are that his already exceptional attributes in those areas will continue to advance and mature.
“Brandon was the best 15-year-old all 10 of us scouts saw
anywhere,” said Gould, the Moncton scout and also the owner
of the EJHL’s New England Junior Huskies. “Brandon has
so much upside. He is a great skater. He has great hands. His
ability is going to grow leaps and bounds. His development is going
to be real good. Danny Flynn is a great coach and makes sure the
kids do things properly.”
When he was a teenager, major junior was not a viable option, Neil Shea said. And until recently, it was not a serious option for Brandon.
“He’s going out of the box, but he’s trying to fulfill a dream,” Neil Shea said. “He knows it’s a challenge. If it doesn’t work out, in three years, he’s only 18 and he goes to school. We’re doing what’s best for my family and my son, and that’s all I care about.
“I know how it works in college, the good and the bad. I know how it works in the ‘Q,’ the good and the bad. There is good and bad in everything in life. A kid has to be brought up the right way, have good values and be able to make good decisions, and I think my son has that.”
Harvard-committed left winger Jimmy Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) will suit up this season for the South Shore Kings in the Eastern Junior Hockey League rather than play his senior year at Belmont Hill. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Vesey was ranked 150 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting final rankings. Unofficially, he had 28 goals and 49 points in 32 games last season; as a team, Belmont Hill decided not to turn in scoresheets to compile individual stats. Vesey’s father of the same name starred at Merrimack before playing in the NHL and with the Bruins. …
Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak,
19, had his choice between national junior team camps, the United
States and Canada, and chose the Maple Leaf.
Selected in the first round (14th overall) by the Dallas Stars in June, Oleksiak is a dual citizen; his father is American and he was born and largely raised in Toronto, although he played in the USHL and American midget hockey before that. Oleksiak had played for the U.S. Under-18 Selects in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. That tournament is not an official IIHF event, which is why he still had the option to choose his side for the World Junior Championship. Should Oleksiak make Team Canada and play in the tournament, then he will be only allowed to play for Canada in future international competition.
Oleksiak decided last month to leave Northeastern and play for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. The Spirit own his rights after drafting him in the seventh round in 2008. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Oleksiak was selected in the first round by the Dallas Stars at June’s NHL Entry Draft. He recorded four goals and 13 points in his freshman year at Northeastern. …
The U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp runs Aug. 6-13 at Lake Placid, N.Y. Returning from last year’s bronze-medal team, BU sophomore forward Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass.) leads a New England contingent of seven players hoping to compete in Calgary and Edmonton Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Coyle is one of three Terriers at the camp along with defenseman Adam Clendening and forward Matt Nieto. Boston College has forwards Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) and Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.), who will be joined by Vermont forward Connor Brickley (Everett, Mass.) and Yale forwardKenny Agostino. …
The U.S. Under-18 Selects competing in the Hlinka Memorial Aug. 8-13 feature several New Englanders, including Under-18 National Team forward Brendan Silk (Wakefield, Mass.), Boston Little Bruins forward Sam Kurker (Reading, Mass.), St. Sebastian’s forward Dan O’Regan (Needham, Mass.), Kent School forward Boo Nieves, Shattuck-St. Mary’s defenseman Teddy Doherty (Hopkinton, Mass.) and Indiana Ice goalie Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine). Kent School coach Matt Herr will serve as an assistant under RPI coach Seth Appert. …
Maine associate head coach Bob Corkum (Newburyport, Mass.) is serving as head coach for the U.S. Under-17 Selects participating in the Under-17 Five Nations tournament Aug. 9-13 in Ann Arbor, Mich. On the squad are: DeAngelo, Erne and St. John’s Prep forward Shane Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.). …
Kevin Major (Westfield, Mass.) — a defenseman on the Springfield Pics’ Empire League team last season — drowned in a Southwick, Mass., lake July 11. He was 19. Major was a 2010 graduate of St. Mary’s High School of Westfield, Mass., and was attending Holyoke Community College.
This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal. Bill Keefe can be reached at email@example.com.