All it took for Noble & Greenough prep school defenseman JC Brassard was one visit to the Union College campus to know where he wanted to play college hockey.
Brassard, an offensive defenseman, committed to Union for the 2015-16 season last week.
Brassard was the top-scoring defenseman in New England Prep School League hockey this season with 11 goals and 32 assists in 27 games.
“I stopped in for a little visit just to meet the coaches last summer,” Brassard said. “It was a beautiful day out. The campus just looked amazing. It clicked from the time I first set foot on the campus, I felt at home there. When I came up to visit and talk to the coaches, they talked about so many different programs, like the Garnet Blades. Then they talked about how much they develop their defensemen.
“The way it sounded was just perfect.”
NCAA rules prohibit Union coaches from commenting on potential recruits because they haven’t been officially accepted by the school.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Brassard will fit in with what is becoming a tradition with the Dutchmen. In recent years, the program has developed a number of offensive defensemen, including Mat Bodie, Greg Coburn, Shayne Gostisbehere and Jeff Taylor.
“Being under six feet, it’s really good to look at a roster and see other defensemen under six feet,” Brassard said. “I think I just really fit the mold of the type player that they have because I’ve seen Gostisbehere play, I’ve seen Bodie play. I think I look exactly like them in the way they play. I think it was a great match for me.”
Noble coach Brian Day believes Union is the perfect fit for Brassard.
“First of all, he’s looking to parlay how well he plays hockey and the best education possible,” Day said. “It’s a terrific school, academically. Obviously, it’s got a great hockey tradition. They’ve been on a great run the last several years. It’s in a league he wants to play in.
“He does a terrific job of making a good breakout pass from the goal line. If he carries it a little bit, he’s still going to push the puck in the offensive zone. He moves incredibly well laterally along the blue line. He’s able to get pucks through traffic on to the net. When he has a good, clear shooting lane, he reads the play well, jumps into space well and can really pick the corners that are open.”
Brassard’s sophomore year at Noble was hampered by a broken leg he suffered prior to the start of the season. He had a goal and an assist in 29 games. He improved in his junior season, collecting five goals and 21 assists on 26 games, and then he blossomed this year.
“I’ve been working out really hard in the offseason,” Brassard said. “I know I’ve been upping my program to be more intense as the summers go on.”
Brassard, who said he also talked to Cornell, Holy Cross and Vermont, plans to play in a junior “A” league next season, with either the British Columbia Hockey League or the U.S. Hockey League.
Zalewski leaves RPI
Mike Zalewski, who just completed his sophomore season at RPI, signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks Friday. One of the team’s most dynamic forwards, Zalewski will give up his final two years of college eligibility, and will join the Canucks on their current road trip, which goes through Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay.
“It is a bittersweet time for me and my family,” said Zalewski in a release put out by the college. “Being at RPI the last two years has been a terrific experience in which I have developed a great deal as a player, in particular as a power forward. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NHL, and the Canucks are providing that chance.”
“We are thrilled to see Mike earn his lifelong dream of signing an NHL contract and going directly from RPI to the NHL,” said RPI head coach Seth Appert. “He is a great teammate and will be missed, but we are excited to watch him with the Vancouver Canucks.”
In 35 games this season, the New Hartford native scored nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points. Two of his goals came shorthanded, while another was a game-winning tally. He was also whistled for 17 penalties for 53 minutes.
Union coach Rick Bennett and Gostisbehere were named finalists for ECAC Hockey awards Wednesday.
Bennett was named a finalist for the Tim Taylor Award as Coach of the Year. Bennett, who won the award in 2012 in his first season as Union’s head coach, guided the Dutchmen to their third Cleary Cup regular-season title in four seasons.
The other finalists are Colgate’s Don Vaughan and Clarkson’s Casey Jones.
Gostisbehere was named a finalist for Best Defensive Defenseman. The junior led conference defensemen in goals scored, shots and tied for the lead league with a plus/minus rating of plus-19. The Philadelphia Flyers third-round draft pick from 2012 set a school record for shots in a season by a defenseman (130) and owns six multi-point games this season.
The other finalists are Quinnipiac’s Dan Federico and Brown’s Dennis Robertson.