Chicago Steel products Brendan Brisson, Sam Colangelo preparing for uncertain NHL Draft
Brisson and Colangelo — the 20th- and 31st-ranked North American skaters — are among several Steel players who will be picked, but their draft experience is likely to be different than it would have been in other years.
The NHL released its final player rankings for the 2020 draft Wednesday, and the announcement came as good news for Brendan Brisson and Sam Colangelo.
The top stars from the Chicago Steel — a juggernaut U.S. Hockey League team that plays its home games at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva — received bumps from their midseason rankings, with Colangelo inching up from 33rd to 31st among North American skaters and Brisson leaping from 31st to 20th.
Brisson and Colangelo already were projected as second- or third-round selections, but the latest news might bump Brisson into the late first round.
But the news comes with a grain of salt: No one knows when, where or in what way the draft — initially scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal — will take place.
‘‘It’s obviously a little bit different than what I probably expected growing up,’’ Colangelo said. ‘‘I’ve worked hard to get myself in this position, and I wish I knew when it would be and what the format would be. But it’s something that’s out of my control.’’
The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing sports-world shutdown already has claimed the players’ anticipated playoff run with the Steel, who had dominated the USHL with a 41-7-1 record.
Brisson, a 5-11 center and self-described ‘‘agile playmaker’’ who is committed to Michigan next season, had 24 goals and 35 assists in 45 games.
He’s the son of Pat Brisson, a prolific NHL agent who represents Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, among others. He frequently would attend Hawks games this season and get advice from the franchise cornerstones afterward, he said.
‘‘I’ve been surrounded by all these players,’’ Brisson said. ‘‘Their habits, you feed off them without even knowing that you’re looking up to them. I’ve seen what it takes firsthand, but I still have to put in the work and the drive.’’
He put in plenty of work this season, improving defensively and away from the puck. He found that actually allowed him to generate more offense.
‘‘[I worked on] staying low in the D-zone, finishing my checks, having good stick detail, so causing a lot of turnovers and breaking the puck out,’’ he said. ‘‘I could skate up with it through the middle and dish it out to my linemates.’’
Colangelo, a 6-2 wing committed to Northeastern next season, had 28 goals and 30 assists in 44 games. He has a pro-ready frame and a hard, accurate shot but needed to improve his skating.
‘‘I’m a player who likes to play with the puck on my stick, and just getting into spots to get the puck back quicker is something I worked on a lot,’’ Colangelo said. ‘‘My first three steps are something else, too. Just getting more explosive.’’
Steel products Sean Farrell (62nd among North American skaters) and Luke Reid (83rd) also are likely to be chosen in the draft, and defenseman Owen Power — although he’s headed to Michigan next season — is a possible top-10 pick in 2021.
Steel president Dan Lehv said the team ‘‘takes an incredible amount of pride’’ in developing a sizable number of draft selections each year. But for Brisson and Colangelo especially, the uncertainty this spring is disconcerting.
After the 2004-05 lockout, the NHL held its draft in Ottawa with no fans and only the best prospects in attendance. Such an alternative is presumably on the table again this year.
Even if the two Steel stars are stuck at their homes that day, however, they’re planning to make the most of the momentous occasion.
‘‘We want it to happen on the right date in Montreal, but there’s a much bigger issue going on in the world,’’ Colangelo said. ‘‘It’ll all take care of itself once this coronavirus starts to slow down.’’
‘‘I’ve been looking forward to this moment pretty much my whole life,’’ Brisson said. ‘‘Having a normal draft in Montreal would be ideal. But if I’m with my family when I hear my name get called, it’s still going to be just as special.’’