The relationship between the USHL and the NCAA is a tight one, and necessarily so.
Certainly both parties benefit from being linked in the "American education-based model," as United States Hockey League Commissioner Skip Prince calls it. USHL teams like the Lumberjacks use the potential for college scholarships as a selling point for recruiting players.
|Ben Foster set the all-time points record in three years|
at prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall (Photo: Choate)
It is that promise of pre-college development that will bring Ben Foster to Muskegon. The Princeton University recruit just finished his course of study at the academically rigorous Choate Rosemary Hall, a Connecticut prep boarding school whose list of prestigious alumni includes President John F. Kennedy.
"Education is very important to me and my family," said Foster, who spent part of his 19 years in the Toronto area before moving back to his native United States. "We didn't want to go with a 'hockey factory' school, and Choate certainly isn't that."
Committing to a college like Princeton might be commonplace at Choate, but Foster's hockey abilities put him in a class by himself in the school's long athletic tradition. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward accumulated 117 points in three years at Choate, including 56 (25 goals) as a senior.
But for a guy who holds the school scoring record, Foster is remarkably modest about his offensive accomplishments, instead choosing to talk about his all-around game.
"I try to do a lot of the little things well," Foster said. "I focus on playing good 'D' and having a quick stick."
When pressed about what leads to his success on the scoresheet, Foster does concede the attributes that make him dangerous and explosive.
"I feel like I'm a solid skater with a good stride and I like to use that," he said. "A lot of my goals come from right around the net and beating defensemen to loose pucks. I'd be nice to score more from the top of the circles, but I've always had success from in tight."
|Sioux City's Kyle Criscuolo gave former|
Choate teammate Foster a great review
of the USHL (Sioux City Journal)
The specter of draft night can be nerve-wracking, as aspect that Foster mitigated by following the night's progress with Choate linemate Alex Rauter, who was a second-round selection by the Omaha Lancers.
While Foster thought he would be taken higher in the Entry Draft, he was pleased to hear that the Lumberjacks had such an interest in him. Part of that comes from his relationship with Palmer, who scouted and recruited him initially, and fellow Muskegon Assistant Coach Dave Noel-Bernier, who coached Foster's team at last year's USHL Combine.
Foster is also excited to ply his trade in the USHL, which he regards as the best option for his development. Former Choate teammate Kyle Criscuolo, a Harvard recruit who played for Sioux City last season, gave Foster a sterling review of the league.
"Kyle said he loved it," Foster said. "If you know you have a year before college, why wouldn't you go to the best league? I've already been living away from home [at Choate] so I don't have a problem with that aspect either."
With his work at Choate complete, Foster has wholeheartedly dug into preparing for the challenges of junior hockey. Since the prep season ended a couple months ago, he has been training regularly through the school's Total Athlete Conditioning program. He also has a working relationship with renowned strength coach Ben Prentiss, who trains successful NHLers such as Martin St. Louis and Max Pacioretty and several NCAA Division I teams.
Foster hopes his extensive work will shine through when he attends Lumberjacks Tryout Camp at L.C. Walker Arena.
"I expect the camp to be pretty intense," he said. "It'll be good competition and a chance to meet the guys I'll be playing with. It should be fun."
(Click here for a feature on Foster's record-breaking season at Choate.)