By Bill Keefe
This is a busy spring for 15-year-old Ridgefield, Conn., defenseman Chad Krys.
At press time, he was the only New England player among the 19 roster spots announced for next year’s U.S. National Under-17 team.
On May 31 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Krys was expected to be a top selection in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft. Some scouting lists have him ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the draft, but where he is selected will be influenced by how likely the drafting team feels he will ultimately report. (Editor's Note: Krys was taken in the seventh round by Moncton.)
“He is probably one of the best players I’ve seen in a long time,” said Eric Lind, a veteran coach who has had the likes of Max Pacioretty and Cam Atkinson in his summer camps and had Krys on the Connecticut Oilers Under-16s in 2012-13. “He’s got something special. I see him do stuff I haven’t seen top guys do, and do it at full speed.
“And he’s just a great kid; a humble kid that works hard.”
It helps explain the interest from both sides of the border in the 6-foot, 175-pound, smooth-skating and highly skilled defenseman, and Krys is appreciative of it all.
“(Ann Arbor) has been a goal of mine for a long time,” Krys said. “You see the players that have come through there. I’m psyched for it. It will be a lot of fun.”
As for his QMJHL draft prospects, Krys said, “It’s a nice compliment. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. The plan for me has been to go to college. I don’t think you want to rule anything out, but I always wanted to play college hockey.”
Krys’ hockey genes and family ties have something to fuel all the different tea leaf readers. He has not committed to any college yet. His father, Mark, a native of Ontario, grew up exposed to major junior hockey but played on the high-powered Boston University teams of the late 1980s and early ’90s and was a 1988 draft pick of the Boston Bruins. He played parts of four seasons with the AHL’s Maine Mariners and Providence Bruins during a nine-year pro career.
The family pull to BU extends further in the Krys family as that’s where Mark met his wife, Stacy, who played lacrosse for the Terriers.
And there is a pull to Boston generally. Chad grew up playing for the Westchester Express in the Eastern Hockey Federation, which led to a few trips a year to the Boston area. The family has friends around town from the BU days. Chad admits, though he lives much closer to New York, that he is a Red Sox fan, not a Yankees fan.
Naturally, the college recruiting process has involved Boston. Would it be tough for his parents if Chad ever pulled on a maroon-and-gold sweater?
“A lot of people have asked me that,” Mark Krys said. “No, that’s a great program also. My wife and I are both Terriers. The most important thing is that Chad wakes up and he’s happy where he’s at.”
Mark Krys coached Chad through Bantams, and Chad said having a father with his hockey experience as a resource has been valuable, but it has not been a pressure-packed and expectation-filled journey.
“Be nice and work hard” are the two family rules, Chad said, and the two things he most took away from his father’s tutelage.
“Work hard, have fun and try to get better,” Mark said. “At the end of the day, that’s what you’re trying to learn from the game and get from the game. If you’re fortunate enough to play juniors or colleges, it’s great, but it’s what you learn along the way.
“Things have changed since I played. There’s a lot of pressure on kids, they’re committing in seventh and eighth grade. We’ve forgotten about why we play the game. There’s more to life than hockey.”
To that end, Chad is also a member of the nationally ranked Ridgefield High lacrosse team and is regarded as among the best in the country for his class. Ridgefield lacrosse, the community and family are part of what kept Krys from seeking hockey opportunities away from home until now.
Krys posted 20 goals and 51 assists in 49 games when he played up for the Oilers’ Under-16 team in 2012-13. He was a league all-star and the all-star game MVP.
The plan was for him to play with the Oilers’ Eastern Hockey League junior team this past season as a 15-year-old. USA Hockey reduced the number of waivers it granted 15-year-olds to play junior from 200 in 2011-12 to none last season. The Oilers and Krys learned of the denial only weeks before the season began, so he practiced with the Oilers and played for the New Jersey Rockets Under-19 team, notching 46 points in 42 games.
Krys heads to Ann Arbor with the goal of putting up numbers in the strength and conditioning program. He said he knows he’s not a 6-4 widebody and adding muscle and weight will be important.
It’s likely that some of those widebodies might like to pick up some of his skating and skill.
Paced by five players who might all compete against each other in the Beanpot in the next couple of seasons, the U.S. Under-18 National Team won the gold medal at the Under-18 World Championships in Sweden in April.
Boston University recruits Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) and Jonathan MacLeod (Dracut, Mass.) and Boston College commits Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch and Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.) helped the U.S. capture its 11th straight medal at the tournament.
After dropping its first game to Switzerland, the U.S. won six straight, including a 5-2 decision over the Czech Republic in the final. Milano had a goal and two assists in the gold-medal game, while Eichel and MacLeod each had an assist.
Eichel (5-5-10) and Milano (3-7-10) tied for the lead among U.S. scorers and were part of a three-way tie for third in tournament scoring. Eichel was selected by tournament coaches as one of the Americans’ three top players.
Hanifin had a goal and four assists for the tournament, MacLeod went 2-1-3 and Tuch was 0-3-3. …
Eichel put the finishing touches on one of the best seasons and two-year stints the National Team Development Program has seen. He finished this season as the team’s leading scorer with 38-49-87 in 53 games. The 87 points place him fourth for most points in a single NTDP season behind only Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel and Andy Hilbert and ahead of the likes of James van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.). The 49 assists are the second-highest single-season total in NTDP history.
For his career, Eichel compiled 138 points (66-72), the fifth-best NTDP total. …
After being promoted to the Under-18 team late in the year, Hanifin was 2-11-13 in 14 games with a plus-12 rating. …
Colin White (Hanover, Mass.) finished second on the Under-17 team with 63 points on 33 goals and 30 assists in 47 games. He also had a goal and two assists in eight games with the Under-18s late in the season. …
The Boston Junior Bruins won the USA Hockey Tier 3 National Junior Championship in Simsbury, Conn., with a 4-1 defeat of the North Iowa Bulls of the North American 3 Hockey League. The Bruins outscored their opponents 34-5 in five games.
Goalie Sean Lawrence posted two shutouts, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage. Alex Brink led the Bruins and was second in the tournament with nine points on six goals and three assists. Lawrence made 37 saves in the final to go along with an assist. John Picking (Wellesley, Mass.) scored a pair.
The Springfield Pics reached the national semifinals before falling to the Bruins. The Northern Cyclones gave Massachusetts three of the four teams in the semifinals, where they lost to the Bulls. …
The Cyclones trailed two games to none in the Eastern Hockey League best-of-five championship series with the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs before storming back to win three straight and the title. The Cyclones trailed 2-0 in the final game. Jeremy Young (Lynnfield, Mass.) capped the comeback with just under nine minutes to play. …
Phase one of the USHL draft for 1998-born players only is scheduled for May 5. Phase two, for any junior-eligible player not protected by another USHL team, is May 6. ...
The only other player with a New England connection who has been announced as a member of next year’s U.S. Under-17 national team is Salisbury defenseman Griffin Luce of Williamsville, N.Y., the grandson of former Buffalo Sabre Don Luce.
This article originally appeared in the May edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to access the FREE digital edition.