March 25, 2012

Somerby hopes to parlay prep feats into NHL Draft selection

 By: Kirk Luedeke

Kimball Union Academy defenseman Doyle Somerby (Marblehead, Mass.) is hoping to ride the positive wave of a prep hockey championship right into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh next June. 

Doyle Somerby helped Kimball Union Academy defeat Holderness, 3-2, in the Piatelli/Simmons championship game. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is an accomplished shutdown player at that level and played a critical role in the school’s second Piatelli/Simmons Trophy (small school championship) in three years. Somerby’s solid performance at the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association’s 2012 tournament in Salem, N.H. attracted notice from NHL scouts, but being a champion was an even more significant accomplishment for the 17-year-old.

“The team came a long way,” Somerby told New England Hockey Journal. “We started off with the goal of the Elite 8. Throughout the season we came over some obstacles, but we came out in the end and we really fought hard and battled. I was proud of my team—we had a lot of guys.”

The junior and Boston University recruit is undecided as to whether he will return to KUA for one more year or try and elevate the competition level somewhere on the junior circuit. He posted a goal and 14 points in 31 games for the Wildcats last season.

 “It’s still up in the air—I’d love to go back to KUA,” Somerby said. “I have to go over every option, though. Look at the USHL, look at the EJ—see what the best home is, but KUA I’d love to go back to.”

Somerby made an appearance at the Beantown Spring Classic in Marlborough, Mass. The annual showcase brings together most of the top draft eligible players from New England and other areas to give amateur scouts one final chance to see the prospects in action.

“I’m still pretty raw,” Somerby said, describing himself to people who have not had a chance to see him play. “I just started playing ‘D’ in eighth grade so the more I get up in the levels, I get more coaching. I want to be the kind of shutdown defenseman that can play against the top lines, really battle with the top players on the other team and shut them down. 

“Being a forward before, I like to jump up in the rush when I can, be a fourth-man in if there’s the opportunity.”

If there are several areas that Somerby is looking to improve upon, the physicality of his game is one.  One NHL scout likened him to Hal Gill (Bolton, Mass.) at the same age.

“I’m trying to get better at playing the physical aspect,” he said. “I was never too physical when I was little, so it’s more of learning how to play the body more on the small forwards. I’m a bigger guy, so it’s footwork and getting in the right place to hit them, so I’m still working on it.”

Somerby’s sheer size and physical package is enough to earn him notice from big league clubs, even if he lacks the self-admitted refinement at this stage of his development. The Bay Stater’s chances of getting a call in Pittsburgh may not be a sure thing, but he is keeping a realistic outlook on the situation.

“The season was going along, I was just worrying about colleges and thinking about that,” he said when asked how much thought he put into the NHL draft this year. “As we get closer to June, it’s obviously on my mind and just focusing on working hard every day. It’s out of my hands.”

Because of his natural physical gifts, some NHL scouts feel that Somerby has the kind of potential to be worthy of a pick. However, one went so far as to say that any team drafting the KUA star will have to show a lot of patience and time to see the investment pay off.

“He moves okay for a big guy,” the scout told New England Hockey Journal. “His coordination is still coming along as he grows into his body and the footwork is a little rough. I’ve seen him get beat off the rush when he stops moving his feet, so he’s a guy who has to be smart with his positioning. He’s a little too passive at times as well.

“But, I’ve also seen the vision, an ability to make the first pass and some upside there. If he was about 6-foot-1 we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but at 6-5, there’s a lot to like with that package.”

One interesting tie to where the draft will be held this year comes to the one NHL player Somerby admires the most and tries to pattern his game after: Penguins rearguard Brooks Orpik.

“I loved him—I watched him play at BC,” said Somerby. “He was a physical guy, went through the ranks and now he’s a puck-moving defenseman that’s physical in his own end, plays all aspects of the game, kills penalties which is huge, blocks shots, throws hits and is somebody I want to be like.”

Somerby’s favorite NHL player may have come out of Boston College, but when it comes to his own progression, he is 100 percent dedicated to the Terriers of BU after being pursued by Maine, UNH UMass, and St. Lawrence.

“Boston University—everybody wants to play there,” he said.  “(Coach) Jack Parker, you’ve got the Beanpot which is the first two Mondays in February, and that’s just what you want to do when you’re a little kid coming up in Boston. I always watched it. So it was a pretty easy decision when they hopped in the mix.”

With Somerby committing to joining Mike Boyle’s Boston-area strength and conditioning program, he’ll have a busy summer of getting his already immense frame prepared for the next hockey season.

If things break right in June, he’ll also have an NHL team to identify with and set a long-term goal of establishing himself with one day.