By Mick Hatten
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It is rare that a a 22-year-old senior who plays college hockey can give a an in-depth scouting report on a high school senior.
Then again, Jack Ahcan and Grant Ahcan lived in the same house for a number of years and Jack has kept close tabs on his younger brother’s career.
“He’s really slippery and doesn’t get hit much and he’s a really smart player,” Jack said of Grant, who is 17. “If he works on his skating and gets stronger, I think he’s going to be a really good player.”
The coaching staff for the St. Cloud State University men’s hockey team must agree. Grant gave a verbal commitment to play for the Huskies on Saturday, Oct. 5. Jack, a defenseman, is St. Cloud State’s captain this season and was named to the All-America Second Team West last season.
Grant is a 5-foot-9, 155-pound wing who is about to begin his third varsity season with the Burnsville (Minn.) High School team. Last season, Grant led the Blaze in goals (17), assists (22) and points (39) in 26 games. Those numbers showed a sharp increase from his sophomore season (1-6-7 in 27 games).
“My junior year, I got on a midseason point streak and the boys were playing pretty good and that’s when most of the colleges reached out to me,” said Grant, who added that Wisconsin was the other school to show the most recruiting interest. “My sophomore year, I didn’t play as much and I wasn’t as strong and confident as I was my junior year.
“In the (2018) offseason, I buckled down and skated a lot at MAP,” he said of the hockey training facility in the Twin Cities. “I was pretty focused and determined to see how far I could go. My speed increased and my shot got better after that.”
Brother at Wisconsin
Jack works at MAP during the offseason and their other brother, Roman, is a 20-year-old sophomore forward for the University of Wisconsin hockey team. Jack said he sees some similarities in his brothers’ playing styles.
“But Grant is a little bit smarter — he’s got a little bit of me in him,” Jack said with a smile. “I love watching him play because of the plays he makes, a lot of give-and-gos. I’m excited to see the kind of player he’s going to become.”
In a way, the Huskies coaching staff did not need to do much recruiting with Grant, who has attended Jack’s college games throughout his career.
“His freshman year, Jack came back and told of all the good times he was having and stories of how his life was in St. Cloud,” Grant said. “Jack said (head coach Brett) Larson is the best coach in the country easily and I could tell that after my first meeting with him.
“(Larson) is down to earth. One of the big reasons I want to go there is the way the whole coaching staff has been reaching out to me.”
Jack invited Grant to come stay with him last weekend and when they went to the rink Saturday, that was when Grant said he got — and accepted — the offer to play for the Huskies.
Like Jack, Grant said he likes to bring energy to the rink.
“I’m more of an energetic guy and I like to get the bench riled up when I score a goal,” he said. “I’ve always been a hard worker on the ice. All three of us (brothers) have been smaller than kids our age, so we’ve had to work a little harder to win battles and get to pucks. It’s in my nature, after watching my brothers, being more physical.”
And opponents have learned some lessons on his toughness.
“He plays bigger than he is and he’s tough for his size,” Burnsville coach Steve Beaulieu said. “He’s big on the reverse hit where someone will try to hit him and they’ll be surprised at the pop back that they get.
“He has deception and he’s so good in tight spaces. He’s very creative and it’s hard to get a body on him.”
In junior hockey, Grant was selected in the fourth round of Phase II of the 2019 United States Hockey League draft by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, for whom, both Jack (2015-16) and Roman (2017-18) played. But like his brothers, he is going to play his senior season of high school first.
“I went to their main camp and was fortunate to make their 40-man camp,” Grant said of the Roughriders. “But, 100 percent, I need to go back to high school and I’m going to be the captain. I’m not ready to hop into juniors.”
“It’s a maturity thing where they know it’s not a race to get where they want to be,” Beaulieu said of the Ahcan brothers. “They weren’t drawn into juniors early. I think that shows they’re supporting their community and playing with good friends that they have all along. I really appreciate that. It’s not just about them. This is a team sport.”
Grant did say that there is a possibility he could practice or play for Cedar Rapids after his high school season is finished.