By Bill Keefe
The Indiana Ice knew they were on to something last year when they drafted Cam Askew as a 15-year-old in the sixth round of the 2012 USHL Entry Draft.
Askew participated in the Ice’s summer camp and made the 30-man roster, but ultimately decided that he was year away from making that big of a move away from his South Boston, Mass., home.
As a freshman, Askew helped lead Cushing Academy to a New England prep large-school championship. He tallied 35 points in 29 games on 16 goals and 19 assists.
By coming back east for school, Askew essentially made himself a free agent until he would have entered Phase 1 of the draft, formally the Futures Draft, with other 1997-born players. With a number of teams in pursuit, the Ice elected to sign Askew to a tender, or a contract. The Ice decided to use the tender in lieu of their No. 1 pick in Phase 1 of the draft. A condition of the tender is that Askew, who will be among the youngest players in the USHL, must play in at least 50 percent of the Ice’s games.
“He’s in an elite group,” said Joe Bracken, an assistant coach with the Boston Advantage and a member of the USHL’s central scouting staff. “Cam is a top ’97. I see a lot of them in the Tier 1 league and Cam is right in the discussion.”
By placing Askew as a top ’97, Bracken also praised Askew’s peers in that age group from Massachusetts: Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.), Colin White (Dedham, Mass.) and Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) among them.
“There are some very good ’97s coming out of Massachusetts that will be NHL draft picks and maybe NHL players,” Bracken said.
Askew committed to Northeastern as an eighth-grader at St. Sebastian’s. He decommitted last fall and then committed to Boston University. “We had (BU) season tickets my whole life,” Askew said. “I always wanted to go there since I was little. When the opportunity came to me, it was a quick decision.
“It would have been awesome to play for Coach (Jack) Parker, but Coach (David) Quinn is a good coach and I’m looking forward to it.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound-and-filling-out center has a multifaceted game befitting a player mentioned as one of the best in his age group.
“He’s got a high skill level,” Bracken said. “He’s got a good mind for the game, good offensive instinct. You can run the power play through him. It takes a special player to run a power play at the level he is at. He scores goals, makes passes and has the ability to make plays all over the ice.”
While Hanifin, Fitzgerald and other top ’97s are joining the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., next year, Askew eschewed that opportunity by signing with Indiana and will instead play against his Bay State brethren.
“They drafted me last year,” Askew said. “I went to camp in the summer and liked it a lot. I didn’t think I was ready yet. I needed a year of school, but I was comfortable with the organization.
“I felt more comfortable going the USHL route. The ‘Q’ (QMJHL) was there, but my dream has been to go to BU.”
Askew is expected to be joined next year by St. John’s Prep forward Brian Pinho (North Andover, Mass.), whom Indiana selected in the first round, sixth overall, in Phase 2 of the draft.
The draft also was a source of neighborhood pride as USHL champion Dubuque selected Catholic Memorial center Liam Coughlin of Southie in the second round with the 30th overall pick.
At Cushing, Askew practiced against a handful of postgraduate 19-year-olds every day. “It was a good year,” Askew said. “It was my first year away from home. I made new friends, not just on the hockey team, but in school. I was familiar with the talent level from playing at St. Sebastian’s.”
Askew said he wants to focus on becoming both faster and stronger next season. With those attributes, he should be able to do more of what he enjoys to do on the ice — “make people around me better.”
Already firmly on the radar with two years until his draft year, Askew is ready to capitalize on his opportunity.
“He has high-end ability and a lot of untapped potential,” Bracken said.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.