The Pipeline: A conversation with Isaac Howard
Offense has always been the flavour of choice for Isaac Howard of the United States National Team Development Program.
Howard, No. 11 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft, has been a productive standout at every level he’s been at.
I think my specialty is just bringing that offensive force on a nightly basis, not taking off nights and bringing that every night, if that’s clicking and if it’s going in or even if it’s not, just creating those chances and and change the momentum,” Howard told Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show.
It’s been on display more often than not.
Howard had 78 points (49 goals, 29 assists) in 53 games at the U14 level playing with the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s in 2018-19. A season later, he amassed an impressive 64 points (31 goals, 33 assists) in just 38 games at the U16 level.
Naturally, the forward has continued that trend as he nears the 2022 draft.
Howard has 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in just 21 games of the NTDP squad this season.
“I think I describe myself as kind of a an offensive all-around player,” Howard said. “I can either score goals and I can also make a lot of a lot of good plays. I think I have a creative mind out on the ice and I think that helps me see see plays and make some things that others can’t see, and find soft areas and stuff like that.
“As I get older always just keep expanding my toolbox and working on wall plays and stuff like that and defensive zone that becomes really important as I keep climbing up.”
Guy Flaming: What do you see is your role with this in your in your team this year? Everybody kind of has their own niche that they carve out. What’s your specialty?
Isaac Howard: I think my specialty is just bringing that offensive force on a nightly basis, not taking off nights and bringing that every night, if that’s clicking and if it’s going in or even if it’s not, just creating those chances and and change the momentum.
Guy Flaming: You just came back from a pretty successful trip over in Europe (for the 5 Nations). It seems like at least on paper you guys were dominating over there.
Isaac Howard: Yeah, we were. So it was a it was a great trip. It was our first international trip as a team, so to have that success was good.
Guy Flaming: Considering everything in the last 20 months and all the stops and starts and COVID and not being able to travel, getting out there and representing your country and having success like that, I imagine any of these kinds of trips are a good team builder. I have to assume this was a first off a lot of fun, but also important for your team.
Isaac Howard: Yeah, it was. First off it was a blast. It was it was a great team bonding trip, just going through all the airports and finally getting there. Switzerland was just beautiful. It was honestly great. And for the team, I think it just builds confidence and we’ve been pushing towards this and we felt we were ready and prepared to play all these different countries and to go out there and have the success that we had. I think it was it was great for our team’s confidence.
Guy Flaming: Why do you think you had such a good tournament? You had four points against the Czechs, a couple against the Swiss, and a goal against Sweden as well. Why did you you think you seem to really click over there?
Isaac Howard: Yeah, I think it was I was just with great linemates, you know, playing with Frank Nazar and Gavin Brindley. We really clicked, and I think just being prepared going into it. You know, I was ready for the things we do leading up to that tournament as the team on the ice and off the ice. So I think I was just ready for it.
Guy Flaming: Have your linemates been the same pretty much all season or has that changed often this season has coaches looking for the right combos?
Isaac Howard: Yeah, so they’ve been kind of changing around seeing what’s right. You know, it’s kind of been early on in the season, but for the most part I’ve been with Nazar and then kind of right wing has been been kind of mixed around a little bit.
Guy Flaming: When did playing for the program come into reality for you or come on your radar? I know you had to stop in Shattuck for a couple of seasons, but was it while you were at Shattuck or before when you thought the program sounds like a pretty good option for me?
Isaac Howard: So before I went out I kind of was hearing about and started thinking about, and I’d say my freshman year, my first year at Shattuck, was when I really started to think about and know exactly that’s where I want to go. I didn’t really have anywhere else that even really came close, so since then I kind of knew that that’s where I want to play.
Guy Flaming: Now at 5-foot-10, 185 ish pounds, I mean, you’re not obviously the tallest guy on the team, but certainly having success at the size that you are. Do you think height is maybe a little bit overrated.
Isaac Howard: Yeah, I think it’s overrated. You know, you can be going down at 6-2, 6-3, it honestly doesn’t matter. It’s hockey. Either you have it or you don’t. Height doesn’t play a big factor in that.
Guy Flaming: Low center of gravity hard guy to knock off the puck. Those are the kinds of the adjectives that come to mind. Is that fair for you?
Isaac Howard: Yeah, I think that’s fair. You know, I’m always trying to be strong on the puck and I kind of gained a lot of muscle mass throughout the summer. I think this year I’ve been been really good and strong on the puck, which which has helped me.
Guy Flaming: Tell me about your thoughts on the draft. A lot of people suggested you’re going to be a first round pick. Is that something you pay much attention to?
Isaac Howard: I don’t think it’s a distraction. I think there’s obviously pressure this year, but I think pressure can always be a good thing. And I’m not I’m not the guy that’s gonna go look at my rankings and whatnot because just at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter. It’s going to come down to what the NHL GMs want on draft day, so I don’t I don’t want to pay too much attention to that and get away from my game. There’s definitely pressure but I think just for me, just to kind of focus on the season in play my game and I think everyone everything will work its way out.
Guy Flaming: Who impresses you the most amongst your teammates? Who doesn’t get enough attention in your opinion? Who deserves more recognition on your club?
Isaac Howard: I honestly think a bunch of guys could get a lot more recognition, just seeing them up close and seeing how good they are on a daily basis. Some guys that fly under the radar that could take him more recognition could be like Marek Hejduk who comes to mind for me. I think he could get more recognition for his game, I think. I think he’s great. But you know, just going down the lineup, I think a bunch of guys could get more recognition then what they get. There are a lot of skilled and great players on the team.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.