PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Logan Cooley said he is looking forward to playing for the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton from Aug. 9-20, the start of a season that will continue at the University of Minnesota and could end with the Arizona Coyotes.
“I feel really good,” the 18-year-old center said at the National Junior Evaluation Camp at USA Hockey Arena last week. “My skills are sharp. Skating is good. I feel like I’m not getting tired at all. I feel ready to go.”
It’s been a tumultuous few months for Cooley and it’s just getting started.
He had one assist in a 3–2 victory against Slovakia in the qualifying round on December 26, the United States’ only game before the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship was canceled on December 29 due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Last season he had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games for the USA Hockey Under-18 National Team Development Program team.
The Coyotes selected Cooley with the No. 3 pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft on July 7, with general manager Bill Armstrong saying, “He’s exactly what we need and has a chance to be the No. 1 center in the National Hockey League.”
Cooley said, “Obviously getting drafted, especially a top-five pick, is pretty surreal, something I’ve been dreaming of. But to experience this moment with my family in Montreal, it was pretty special.”
Video: Cooley on Coyotes pick 3rd overall in 2022 NHL draft
Cooley flew by private jet from Montreal to Phoenix, where he sat in a news conference among Armstrong and Arizona’s other first-round picks: center Conor Geekie (No. 11) and defenseman Maveric Lamoureux (No. 29). Then he got a dose of reality at Coyotes development camp, from on-ice physical testing to on-ice competition.
His biggest takeaway?
“I’m just thinking about how hard it is to crack the lineup in the NHL, how hard the guys are working and how much stronger I have to get,” Cooley said. “A year in college could really help. Just keep improving and then I think I’ll be ready.”
Cooley (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) returned home to the Pittsburgh area and skated at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice facility in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. He shared the ice with several NHL players, including the Vancouver Canucks forward JT MillerNew York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck and goalie for the Anaheim Ducks John Gibson, who has shown Cooley how difficult it is to score at the sport’s highest level. Cooley said Gibson barely leaves him a net and then takes his glove off to make quick saves.
“Obviously the goaltenders in the NHL are pretty good, so I’m working on making my shot a little harder, a little more accurate as well,” Cooley said.
United States coach Nate Lehmann said Cooley played several games against Slovakia on Dec. 26, leading him to believe Cooley would be relied upon for the remainder of the tournament, which has been rescheduled and will begin a new more than seven months later. The NHL Network will provide full coverage of the tournament.
Cooley made an impression starting in his first practice at the National Junior Evaluation Camp.
“He’s ready with the puck,” Liman said. “He’s strong, he can make a lot of plays and he’s also willing to defend. He’s going to play a lot for us.”
Defender Luke Hugheswho was selected by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and is playing at the University of Michigan, said he and his future Big Ten opponent have been following each other in scrimmage drills after practice.
“I think he’s obviously a very skilled player,” Hughes said of Cooley. “He can skate. He’s got a really good hockey feel. He’s bigger than expected. He’s pretty strong out there, and he’s got a strong stick, really quick. He’s a great player. It’s going to be fun playing him in Minnesota.”
After the world juniors, Cooley will return home for a few days and then head to Minnesota for his first season.
“Obviously, you know, I want to play in the NHL as quickly as possible,” Cooley said. “I had a chance to talk to Bill Armstrong a bit, but it will also depend on what kind of season I have and how I do out there. The rest will take care of itself.”
Photos: Kelsey Grant/Arizona Coyotes