Color of Hockey: Kaplan leans on older brothers to reach NHL

Devin Kaplan watched and learned from his two older brothers as they progressed to college and professional hockey.

“I was able to absorb everything from my older brothers,” said Kaplan, a right winger with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. “As the youngest, I was always the one who had to take rides, go to their games, go to their practices. Being able to absorb what I could, being with them was amazing.”

Kaplan’s brothers and parents will be at the Bell Center in Montreal to watch as the 18-year-old from Bridgewater, New Jersey is selected in the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft on July 7-8.

Kaplan (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) is #61 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American draft-eligible skaters, up from 65 in the midterm rankings. He had 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 53 games for the USA U18 national team and 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 22 games for the NTDP team in the United States Hockey League.

He recorded six points (one goal, five assists) in six games for the USA at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship in Landshut and Kaufbeuren, Germany, held from April 23 to May 1. The USA won the silver medal at the Eight Nations Tournament, second to Sweden.

“My identity is a big athletic power forward that creates space for other people but can also create and produce space for myself,” said Kaplan, who will play for Boston University this fall.

Kaplan said he inherited his passion for hockey from his father, Scott, who fell in love with the sport when he was a student at Colgate University. He passed that love on to his three sons, who each took a different path to playing hockey at the elite level.

“Devin grew up on AAA (New Jersey Avalanche), I went to boarding school (at Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut) and the middleman (Jalen) went and played high school hockey in New Jersey (Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey),” said eldest brother Jordan Kaplan. “And ‘Dev’ went to all these games, so he basically watched everything, every kind of hockey.”

Jordan, 25, was a rookie forward for the New Jersey Devils’ ECHL affiliate Adirondack this season, recording 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 65 games. He had 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 116 games over three years at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut and 2017-21 at the University of Vermont.

Jalen, 22, finished his senior season at NCAA Division III’s Colby College in Waterville, Maine in March. The defender had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 40 games from 2018-22.

Though the three traveled extensively during hockey season, Devin kept in touch with his brothers regularly, gathering game tips and insight into the life of a college and pro player.

“For Jordan, hockey is like a job now,” Devin said. “He talked about the trials and tribulations of the pros, the emotional stuff, the mental stress. I also spoke to him about my problems, whether it was jumping around in the line-up and not knowing where you’re going to play that day. He always told me, ‘You’re there, you’re playing, just make the best of it and play.'”

Jordan said he tries to share some of the tricks of the trade “that I haven’t been told about growing up, things that give you an edge, or maybe something a coach might look for that a younger kid on his wouldn’t.” recognize would possess.”

“Devin is a sponge,” said Jordan, a free agent. “He is a very smart kid and loves to learn. He’s been watching hockey for a long time. I just tell him little things that I know he can do and I think he did a great job as you can see. “

Devin said Jalen is mostly his conversation outlet from hockey. Jalen moved from the rink to Wall Street and worked as an analyst for BNY Mellon in New York after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colby.

“He loves hockey, but not as much as me and Jordan,” Devin said. “To me, with Jalen, he’s that friend who’s just there to talk about anything that’s not hockey. He’s kind of my getaway guy, getaway boyfriend that I have.”

Still, hockey manages to invade their chats.

“I think my message to him is mostly about work ethic,” Jalen said. “It’s pretty obvious he has all the physical tools, the size, the skills. I guess with him it just depends on how much you want it? You have to be willing to outperform other people.”

USNTP U17 coach Nick Fohr said it took Devin some time to get comfortable in the power forward role.

“The games where he plays best,” Fohr said, “and is most productive for himself and the team, are when he’s physical, skating hard, attacking the net, playing like a power forward and his big body and its uses speed to get in front of the net.

“I think it’s a tough adjustment for a kid who’s 16, 17 years old and being super consistent. And I think he made it. It got better and better and better as we went.”

If Devin continues this upward trend at BU, “you’re going to see him in the NHL for a long time,” Fohr said.

Devin said he looks forward to participating in the BU, which has produced NHL power forwards like Mike Grier, a No. 219 ninth-round pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 1993 NHL draft, who spent 14 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers played, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabers and San Jose Sharks and Jordan GreenwaySelected by the Minnesota Wild in the second round (#50) of the 2015 NHL Draft, and has played with the Wild for five seasons.

“I’ve kind of always looked up to Jordan Greenway because he’s an African American player and he’s from the East Coast (Canton, New York),” Devin said. “So there’s a kind of connection there, but it’s a coincidence that I go to BU.”

Photos: USA Hockey, Adirondack Thunder, Colby College

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