By Kirk Luedeke
St. John’s Preparatory School in Massachusetts has produced NHL draft choices in each of the past two seasons. With center Brian Pinho attracting positive attention from big-league scouts, will the Prep make it three straight?
The North Andover, Mass., native and Providence College recruit hopes to follow in the footsteps of Harvard’s Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass., Sharks) and BU rising sophomore Sam Kurker (Reading, Mass., Blues) as the next legitimate NHL prospect to come out of the storied hockey program.
“My freshman coach didn’t know if he would take me on varsity,” Pinho told New England Hockey Journal. “I was about 5-foot-6, 140 pounds. But over that summer I grew to 5-10 and everything just took off from there.”
A heady playmaker who is a superb skater, Pinho elevated his game as a senior, impressing observers with a clear, upward developmental curve over the past several seasons. In 2012-13, the former Valley Jr. Warrior put the team on his shoulders and carried the Prep into the playoffs, even though St. John’s ultimately came up short in the quest for a Super 8 championship.
“Being a two-year captain as a junior and senior was special,” he said. “Making it to the (TD) Garden for the Super 8 final as a sophomore and the semis a year later … we didn’t achieve our championship goal, but I’ll never forget any of the experiences and how much I’ve grown as a player.”
Pinho originally thought of joining his older brother at Lawrence Academy but shifted gears to attend school closer to home. A productive player (17 goals, 53 points as a senior) who contributed in all situations for the Eagles, his skill and intangibles will be tough to replace.
“Brian has been the mainstay of our team for the past two years,” head coach Kristian Hanson told the Salem News in March. “His leadership and talents will be missed.”
Brian has received inspiration from his father, Jim, a standout lacrosse player in his youth, but he also credits three area hockey coaches who influenced him positively in his young career.
“Growing up, Stu Irving (Beverly, Mass.), who played for the 1972 (USA) Olympic Team, was a great coach who helped me a lot when I was younger,” Brian said. “John McLean (North Andover, Mass.), the (Malden Catholic) coach, worked for Paul Vincent and encouraged me. Kim Brandvold helped me a lot with my skating stride, improving my speed and helping me be the player I am today.”
1. Adam Erne
RW, Quebec (QMJHL), 6-1, 205 (North Branford, Conn.)
New England’s top draft-eligible prospect, wire to wire.
2. Ryan Fitzgerald
C, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL), 5-10, 170 (North Reading, Mass.)
A model of consistency since starring at Malden Catholic; BC-bound.
3. Zach Sanford
RW, Middlesex IHC (EJHL), 6-3, 190 (Auburn, N.H.)
Disappointment of losing EJHL final boosted by strong finish … rising on lists.
4. John Hayden
C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-3, 210 (Greenwich, Conn.)
Solid all-around player will join national championship Yale team next fall.
5. Brian Pinho
C, St. John’s Prep (HS-Mass.), 6-1, 175 (North Andover, Mass.)
The area’s top draft dark horse: brings talent, character, leadership to the table.
6. Wiley Sherman
D, Hotchkiss (HS-Conn.), 6-6, 210 (Greenwich, Conn.)
With his height and condor-like wingspan, NHL scouts see him as a safe pick.
7. Anthony Florentino
D, Selects Academy (HS-Conn.), 6-1, 210 (West Roxbury, Mass.)
Not the most skilled defender, but nasty hitter and gives you every ounce of talent.
8. Eddie Ellis
C, Phillips Andover (HS-Mass.), 6-2, 205 (Burlington, Mass.)
Has the body and mind to be an NHL player despite disappointing team showing.
9. Ross Olsson
RW, Cedar Rapids (USHL), 6-5, 200 (Billerica, Mass.)
Massive forward and NU recruit needs to improve skating, but can really fire the puck.
10. Ryan Segalla
D, Salisbury School (HS-Conn.), 6-1, 190 (Rockland, Mass.)
Not fancy, just tough: Keyed the Crimson Knights’ run to the prep championship.
RW, Noble & Greenough (HS-Mass.), 6-2, 180 (Manchester, Mass.)
Don’t be surprised if an NHL club takes a flyer on former NHLer Randy Wood’s kid, a chip off the old block.
LW, Austin Prep (HS-Mass.), 6-2, 190 (North Reading, Mass.)
Another kid with NHL bloodlines, Vesey led 18U team to the national Tier 1junior title and is attracting interest from NCAA D1 teams.