Gophers commit Logan Cooley will be a high pick in 2022 NHL Draft. Then he’ll be ready for college
No matter what happens at the draft, and regardless of which team selects him, Cooley expects to play for the Gophers men’s hockey team next season.
Logan Cooley visited Minnesota last month. He spent some time with his future teammates at the U, getting a preview of what college life is going to be like this fall, then headed back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to prepare for the biggest moment of his life.
That comes Thursday night in Montreal.
It is a foregone conclusion that the 18-year-old Cooley will be a high pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. He is a long shot to go No. 1 overall to the Montreal Canadiens. He’s entered the conversation to go No. 2 overall when the New Jersey Devils are on the clock. He won’t make it past No. 3 with the Arizona Coyotes.
“It’s been something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” Cooley said. “I’m definitely a little nervous. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s out of my hands at this point. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
No matter what happens at the draft and regardless of which team selects him, Cooley expects to play for the Gophers next season. He said he was drawn to coach Bob Motzko throughout the recruiting process and is excited to be a part of the program’s longstanding tradition.
“I felt a really good connection there, and I felt like they could help me develop into a really strong NHL player,” Cooley said. “Plus, we’re going to have such a good team next season. I think we’re going to do some damage. I’m really excited about it.”
This has been a long time coming for Cooley. He grew up in Pittsburgh and played for Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins program as a kid. While that gave Cooley someone to look up to in the NHL, he already had some people in his life he was trying to emulate.
His older brothers Eric and Riley both played hockey, meaning from the moment Cooley first laced up his skates at age 3, he had to work his butt off every time he stepped on the ice.
“They pushed me every day,” Cooley said. “All of their friends were bigger than me, too, so I had to figure out what worked for me. I was always going against bigger guys as a kid. I think that’s a big reason I’m here today.”
Nowadays, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Cooley is more than capable of holding his own. His star started to rise early in his tenure with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, proof that it was the right move, even though Cooley admitted it was hard to leave home.
“I was fortunate that my mom moved out there with me,” he said. “That helped with the transition. Just being at the program was huge. I got to compete against some of the other top players in the country and it made me a better player.”
As a member of the U17 team, Cooley posted 16 goals and 16 assists across 28 games. As a member of the U18 team, he produced 27 goals and 48 assists in 51 games.
“After playing for the U17 team, I started to realize I could do something special with this sport,” Cooley said. “Then going my time with the U18 team, I had another really good year. That gave me the confidence that I could go pretty far.”
All the while, Cooley has done his best to keep himself insulated, ignoring the hype and focusing on the grind.
“You can’t pay too close attention to it,” he said. “I’ve been focusing on controlling what I can control. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
That said, even Cooley can’t help but see himself on social media from time to time. He is capable of doing things on the ice that instantly go viral. He prides himself on his creativity and not surprisingly looks up to rising star Trevor Zegras as someone who is leading the charge for the next generation.
Asked specifically about Zegras, Cooley immediately brought up the play from last season that nearly broke Twitter. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Zegras flipped the puck to teammate Sonny Milano, who batted it out of midair for an incredible goal.
“Just seeing guys like Zegras do special things on the ice is huge,” Cooley said. “There were so many people who were talking about that flip. There were even kids trying it. That stuff grows the game. I really like where the game is going. It’s about speed, and it’s only going to get faster from here. That suits my game.”
Maybe one day a future draft pick will be talking about Cooley in the same way he raves about Zegras now.
In the meantime, Cooley is focused on the next steps of his career: Getting drafted, then going to college.
“I’m focused on playing college hockey, and I’m super excited about that,” he said. “It’s another challenge, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
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