By Bill Keefe
Prized prospect Brandon Shea, a 16-year-old center from Marshfield, Mass., will join the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, New England Hockey Journal confirmed Tuesday night, and will forgo a roster spot with the U.S. National Team Development Program and a Boston College scholarship.
“He’s going,” said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Speculation had swirled since Moncton made an aggressive move by trading a 2012 first-round choice and second- and sixth-round picks in June’s QMJHL draft to obtain the 13th selection in the first round to draft Shea. American players are rarely drafted that high because of the uncertainty of their reporting, especially with a player like Shea who had high-end commitments. Considering that, and Moncton’s heavy investment, the speculation had added credibility.
Shea has both skill and size at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, and he just turned 16. As a freshman at Noble and Greenough, he had 34 points in 27 games on 16 goals and 18 assists. The year before as an eighth-grader, Shea had 11-12-23 numbers.
He was offered, and accepted, a roster spot with the NTDP before the Final 40 camp began in March. He committed to Boston College last June for the fall of 2014.
Adding another layer to the decision-making process is the fact that Brandon’s father, Neil, played at BC in the 1980s and has remained a prominent figure as a scout for the Colorado Avalanche, and a coach in the South Shore Kings and Dynamos programs.
That Shea was selected in the Q draft was no surprise, but that Moncton had such interest to draft him so highly and pursue him so vigorously was a surprise, sources said.
“I went to Boston for a week during the season and watched him play,” Moncton head coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn told the Moncton Times and Transcript after the Q draft. “He's an exceptional player. He's a big, strong, intelligent two-way center. He's got skill and hockey sense. He's similar to (National Hockey League centers) James Sheppard and Eric Staal in terms of style of play.
“He played in leagues the past couple of years where he was the youngest player and more than held his own. Inside his own age group he's been a dominant player.”
Moncton finished ninth overall in last year’s 18-team league and lost its first-round playoff series, 4-1, to now-defunct Lewiston, the eighth-seed.
Shea’s move comes on the heels of other high-profile American players making, or close to making, the move to major junior.
Locally, BU 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 may also 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 Q 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 has been made official yet.
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 has not been made official.
Both the QMJHL and Moncton Wildcats have made renewed efforts to recruit American players.
Starting with next year’s draft, all Q teams will be required to select two Americans. The league is also exploring conducting seminars in New England featuring on- and off-ice sessions to promote itself as College Hockey, Inc., has done in Canada. Flynn has been a big proponent of doing so and in combatting the perception that educational opportunities are lacking in the Q.
Bill Keefe can be reached at email@example.com