One of AJHL's top goal scorers commits to SCSU
Ethan AuCoin, a 19-year-old wing from Calgary, is tied for seventh in the Alberta Junior Hockey League in goals (34) and tied for 15th in points (61) in 59 games.
LLOYDMINSTER, Alberta — Ethan AuCoin's last few weeks is an example of what American colleges and some Canadian junior hockey players are going through with the challenges that the pandemic, NCAA transfer portal and college players getting an extra year of eligibility.
Due to the pandemic, AuCoin, a forward from Calgary, Alberta, did not visit any colleges during the recruiting process.
"With the way our way our season is going and all of the COVID (travel) restrictions, I wasn't able to," said AuCoin, who did a virtual tour. "It all had to be done over Zoom calls and phone calls."
Despite not seeing St. Cloud State's facilities in person, AuCoin was impressed by what he saw.
"Obviously, the facilities and all of that are world class," he said. "The winning the program has done in the last 10 years speaks for itself."
AuCoin committed on Feb. 20 and then made his announcement via Twitter.
I am extremely honoured and proud to announce my commitment to play division 1 hockey at St. Cloud State University— Ethan AuCoin (@E_Coin11) February 21, 2022
I would like to thank my family, coaches, teammates, the Lloydminster Bobcats organization and everyone else who have made this opportunity possible. #GoHuskies pic.twitter.com/zzxlAfb9BX
When AuCoin is going to play for the Huskies is another item that is unknown. With the NCAA granting players who played during the 2020-21 season another year of eligibility, the Huskies are unsure how many players they will need in the fall of 2022.
St. Cloud State is certain to lose forwards Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski, both of whom are playing in their final seasons of eligibilty. But then there is this season's senior class, who will have the option of returning next season. That class includes Micah Miller, Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker.
"With the (transfer) portal and all the seniors' (eligibility), they couldn't give me an offer until the last month," AuCoin said.
The transfer portal is another thing that college coaches now have to consider. Since the NCAA began allowing athletes to transfer and not lose a season of eligibility in 2021, the transfer portal was overflowing with players seeing what their options were.
The Huskies have had three players transfer to the program in the last two seasons, but all three were graduate student transfers: before last season, defenseman Seamus Donohue transferred from Michigan Tech and forward Jared Cockrell from Colgate; forward Aidan Spellacy joined the team this season from Robert Morris University.
For AuCoin, regardless of how the numbers shake out, he knows he will be playing hockey next season. At age 19, he has one season of junior hockey eligiblity remaining.
"They don't know what guys are coming back and not coming back, so they can't give me an answer," AuCoin said. "When their season is over, they will give me a phone call. If there's a spot open, I will going (to SCSU) in the fall. If there's not a spot open, I will playing in juniors."
A goal scorer
When he gets to St. Cloud State, what kind of player will the Huskies be getting?
Playing for Lloydminster Bobcats in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, AuCoin is tied for seventh in the league in goals (34), fourth in power-play goals (14) and is tied for 15th in points (61) in 59 games.
"I think I have offensive ability, speed and I can shoot the puck," said AuCoin, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds. "The goal scoring is a key to my game and I am able to play a 200-foot game."
This is AuCoin's first full season of playing junior hockey. Last season, he was limited to eight preseason games and two regular season games because Canada shut down the junior hockey season early due to the pandemic.
After the season ended, he went back to Calgary. AuCoin is friends with Nick McCarry, who plays major junior hockey for the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League.
"Thanfully, I've got a buddy back home in Calgary (McCarry), whose dad owns a rink," AuCoin said. "We were able to work out and skate there with WHL guys and Junior A guys. It worked out pretty well.
"It helped for sure. It helped me take my game from midget hockey to junior."
His last season of midget hockey (2019-20), AuCoin played for the Calgary Northstars U18 AAA team and had 29 goals in 38 games.
"He's an elite level hockey player," Lloydminster head coach and general manager Nigel Dube said. "The biggest thing about Ethan is his creativity. He's a really entertaining offensive player with what he can do with the puck.
"When he gets it, he's really fast and can make some high offensive plays at a really high pace. He's one of the funnest hockey players to watch because he plays with so much love and dedication to the game and his teammates. He's become a pretty quick fan favorite."
And his personality helps with that as well.
"Everybody loves him and he makes coming to the rink more fun every day with the energy and excitement he brings," Dube said. "You can't wipe the smile off his face when he's playing hockey. He's just as excited for his teammates when they score as he is when he scores. Those are great things to have as a hockey player, as a person and as a teammate."
Interestingly, hockey was not always his top priority.
"My parents were big into basketball," he said. "For some reason, their kids started to play hockey and that's been the way it's going."
AuCoin has a younger brother, Cooper, who is a 14-year-old hockey player. But hockey was not the lone sport Ethan played growing up.
"I was a big multisport guy and it wasn't really hockey until I reached about bantam," he said of the 15-and-under hockey age group. "I was a big soccer, basketball and baseball (player) — those were the big sports for me.
"Through the summers (then), I didn't touch the hockey skates or hockey stick once — other than road hockey."
AuCoin said that he is considering majoring in either psychology or business in college.
AJHL alums at SCSU
If AuCoin joins the Huskies next season, he will join AJHL alums Kyler Kupka (Camrose Kodiaks) and Zach Okabe (Grande Prairie Storm). Kupka and Okabe will both be in their fourth seasons with the Huskies in the fall.
Just as points of reference:
Kupka had 30 goals and 71 points in 60 regular season games for the Kodiaks in 2018-19. He has four goals, 14 points and is a plus-9 in 30 games this season.
In 2018-19, Okabe had 31 goals and 58 points in 60 regular season games for the Storm. He has 11 goals, 25 points and is a minus-1 in 30 games this season.