by Matt Gajtka
PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Christian Humphreys made BK Selects history this summer by earning a spot on the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program, but his accomplishment is as much about the future as it is the present.
That goes not only for Humphreys, who burst upon the NTDP scene Sept. 9 with a stunning five-goal game, but also for players currently at BK, players who know a former Select is doing big things after training in the same program they belong to.
“There was nothing better than seeing him show up big in that first game,” BK Selects 15O forward Chase Jette (Lake Forest, Ill.) said. “Being able to be close with him, knowing he has a bright future, is a great thing.”
Coincidentally, the same weekend Humphreys went off in Wisconsin against the NAHL’s Janesville Jets, the 15O boys team was in southeast Michigan for an NTDP-hosted showcase tournament to launch their 2022-23 season.
The Selects went 2-2-1, including a 3-0 win over Chicago Mission in the team’s first live action of the fall, a performance deemed by Jette to be “a great way to start off the weekend.”
The end of the team’s stay in Plymouth was arguably as inspiring as the start, as Humphreys gave the guys a tour of the NTDP’s training facilities before they boarded the bus back to Rochester.
“He’s a great kid,” 15O head coach Shayne Stockton said of Humphreys. “Our returning players were pumped to see him. We have players here at BK with aspirations to go make the NTDP and higher levels of hockey and we’re hoping they see that it doesn’t just happen.
“A lot of hard work needs to be put in and that’s why they’re here at BK.”
Stockton added that Humphreys, who started last season with the 15O squad before getting moved up to the eventual national-champion 16Us, made a major impression on his peers at BK with his work ethic. That’s just the kind of example a coach likes to point at, especially when that young athlete will now be featuring on the international stage.
“The kids here for their second year were able to see what Christian did and something that stuck out was he was always one of the first guys on the ice for practice,” Stockton said. “He bought into what the coaches preached. He did all of the things that he needed to do to reach this point in his career.
“Hopefully these kids use that as motivation and help them reach their goals.”
As for the team’s goals over the first weekend of play — a difficult one both in terms of number of games and quality of competition — the 15Os kept it simple, considering it was just two weeks ago that they skated together for the first time as a group.
Along with dispatching Chicago Mission in shutout fashion, BK Selects also blanked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and tied the Mid Fairfield (Conn.) Rangers, but lost in overtime to the LA Jr. Kings and in regulation to the Minnesota Blades.
The Blades Showcase arrives this weekend in the Twin Cities, with the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh immediately following, so there will be plenty of opportunity for the BK Selects to improve the specifics of game execution in the near future. As for now, they’re hoping to build on a two-pronged foundation.
“We’ve gone over a lot during training camp that is new to a lot of the players,” Stockton said. “So going into the weekend we weren’t too focused on those aspects, but rather two things: Compete and play as a team. At this level the only way to have success is if everyone is working together.”
A Rochester native, Stockton is also excited about the opportunity to lead a BK Selects team of his own, following two seasons as an assistant under 14U head coach Ben McManama and Chris Collins with the 15Os.
He said he considers the BK Selects experience to be the hockey equivalent of Advanced Placement courses.
“My aim is for us coaches to teach the kids what it takes to get to the next level and create a culture that every player buys into,” Stockton said. “It takes a lot to play at the highest levels, and as a coaching staff it’s our job to prepare them for it, on and off the ice.
“From a hockey standpoint, the game changes every year as you get older. We are introducing concepts and habits that these young kids will hear a lot of in their hockey careers, wherever that may be.”
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.