August 16, 2013

Thayer's Griffin brings Marchand-like tenacity to U-17 selects

By Bill Keefe

Thayer’s Linc Griffin has committed to Northeastern and was drafted by the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. (Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Playing with Noah Hanifin, Colin White, Cam Askew and Casey Fitzgerald on the ’97 Valley Junior Warrior team that went to nationals, it’s possible to get lost in the limelight, but Linc Griffin is no B-list movie star.

The Thayer Academy left winger from Walpole, Mass., has had a pretty good stretch in the past few months. He committed to Northeastern, became property of the Dubuque Fighting Saints when the team took him in the fifth round of the USHL draft, and, most recently, joined the U.S. Under-17 Select team that is competing at the Five Nations Tournament in Slovakia from Aug. 14-18.

“It will be a great experience,” Griffin said of wearing the USA sweater.

Griffin is the only New Englander on the team, which will face Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and host Slovakia in the tournament.

At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Griffin isn’t small for a 16-year-old, but he isn’t big either. Yet his strengths lie in being a buzzsaw, a grinder, the kind of player you like to play with, but not against.

“He’s really tenacious around the net, always buzzing in the offensive zone,” said Mike Cusack, the New England scout for Dubuque who coaches with the Boston Bandits and runs the Boston Junior Whalers summer teams. “He makes stuff happen.”

But Griffin isn’t a checking-line guy. He knows what to do with the puck when he wins it in a scrum. Cusack said Griffin sees the ice well and is both a scorer and playmaker, which is evidenced by his numbers.

He had 14 goals and 37 points in 23 games for Thayer last year, and then, in six games at the Select 16 Festival, had five goals and 11 points, one point off the festival leader. The Under-17 Select team was picked from players at the festival.

“I wasn’t sure what to think at first,” Griffin said. “I had a slow start, hit some posts and didn’t score. As the days went on, I got more comfortable with my teammates and linemates, had better chemistry and started putting up points.”

When it was suggested Griffin might be compared to Brad Marchand, Cusack thought it was a good comparison, while Griffin called it “an honor.”

The heart had to be natural, but the determination and intensity was drilled into Griffin growing up playing for Neil Shea’s (Quincy, Mass.) South Shore Kings teams.

“Neil used to scream at us to play 110 percent every shift and to play like it’s your last game,” Griffin said. “I take that mentality and try my all out there.”

Griffin has picked up more tenacity tips from his coach at Thayer, Tony Amonte (Hingham, Mass.).

“Tony drills us in the corner and forces us to get to the front of the net for scoring opportunities,” Griffin said. “That helps a lot.”

Although Griffin had a strong foundation in all things Husky, Amonte also helped cement Griffin’s decision.

Griffin’s father played baseball at Northeastern and, as a result, he grew up going to Husky hockey and baseball games. In talking to Griffin, Amonte had good things to say about NU and felt that Griffin would fit into the Huskies’ style of play.

There likely will be a stop between Thayer and Northeastern, and it may be Dubuque. Griffin said he heard from the Fighting Saints a few days before the draft when they expressed interest in him.

“I didn’t really think I was going to get drafted; it was special,” Griffin said.

Griffin is focused on playing his upcoming junior year at Thayer and then, he said, is playing it by ear for his senior year. He did not want to rule anything in or out, but wanted to leave all his options open.

And, on TD Garden ice on a February Monday in 2016 or 2017, Griffin will have the opportunity to share, and maybe capture, the Beanpot limelight from his former teammates and future Boston College foes Hanifin, White and Fitzgerald.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.