Teammates On Same Track To The Top


Waterloo Black Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley hears the question from NHL scouts all the time. Who’s his program’s better prospect, Brock Boeser or Tom Novak?

“It all depends on what kind of player you want. They’re completely different players,” said O’Handley, the United States Hockey League’s all-time wins leader.

Brock Boesler

Number: 12

Position: Forward

Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 192 pounds

Birth Date: Feb. 25 1997

Hometown: Burnsville, Minn.

College Commitment:

USA Hockey History: Skated
in the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey
All-American Prospects Game.
Was a member of the U.S.
Under-18 Select Team that took
third place in the 2014 Ivan
Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
Helped the U.S. Junior Select
Team claim first place at the
2014 World Junior A Challenge.



Tom Novak

Number: 15

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 180 pounds

Birth Date: April 28, 1997

Hometown: River Falls, Wis.

College Commitment: 
University of Minnesota

USA Hockey History: Skated 
in the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey
 All-American Prospects Game.
 Was a member of the U.S.
 Under-18 Select Team that took
 third place in the 2014 Ivan 
Hlinka Memorial Tournament. 
Helped the U.S. Junior Select
 Team claim first place at the 
2014 World Junior A Challenge.

“Brock plays the game 90 mph and Tom plays a little slower, but an equally effective game. They both have offensive gifts and size that, once they fill out and get stronger, will give them an opportunity to play at the highest level.

“Their brains are good, they’re both committed to their craft, and they’re both great human beings. We’re very fortunate to have them in our program, and I wouldn’t pick one over the other because they complement each other so well.”

While their styles may vary, the USHL rookies have navigated their NHL Entry Draft year in remarkably similar fashion and have seen their draft stock rise to reach first-round projections.

Novak and Boeser finished 1-2 in team scoring at both the preseason Ivan Hlinka Tournament and the World Junior A Challenge in December. USA Hockey claimed bronze at the Hlinka, and Novak scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Denmark and give the Americans a gold medal for the third straight year at the World Junior A Challenge.

“It’s always an honor to represent USA Hockey, but I also really wanted to go to both of those tournaments because I knew they were big scouting tournaments,” said Boeser, a standout at Burnsville (Minn.) High School last season.

“I knew if I could play my game, play well and contribute to the team’s success, I’d start to make a name for myself. I’m happy with the way things went for us. Tom and I played well at both tournaments, and, more importantly, the team had success.”

Novak and Boeser also represented Waterloo in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September and the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.

“When you play in big tournaments or showcases, you have to play more of an up-tempo game because there’s so much more speed,” Novak said. “You’re playing with so many guys who play a high caliber game. When you come back to your regular team, the game seems a little bit easier.”

In Waterloo, Novak centers a line with right wing Boeser and second-year left wing Tyler Sheehy. Together they form one of the most dynamic lines in the USHL, a league known for its attention to detail and commitment to a 200-foot game, and have been among the statistical leaders all season.

“It takes a while to get adjusted to this league, especially for both of us coming out of high school,” said Novak, who starred at St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota. “Brock has a good scoring touch. He can score almost at will sometimes. I’m more of a pass-first guy. We work really well together.

It helps to have been playing with Tyler. He’s been around the league, and he’s shown us that you can’t always play like you did in high school. He definitely helped us adjust to the league a lot quicker.”

The season in Waterloo will bridge the gap between high school and college hockey. Novak is committed to Minnesota, and Boeser is choosing between Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

You have to make quicker decisions because you’re playing against bigger and stronger guys in the USHL,” Boeser said. “I can tell my game has improved a lot this year.”


Jim Leitner is the sports editor of the Dubuque (Iowa) Telegraph Herald.


Photos courtesy of United States Hockey League


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