By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks drafted Brian Cooper in the fifth round three years ago, and he has been playing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the past three seasons. He will be returning there for his senior year this fall.
Standing at under 6’, Cooper is small for a defenseman, but he makes up for that by being a good skater who plays a positionally sound game. He’s not a big time scorer, but has increased his offensive totals every year that he has been in the NCAA and had five goals and 16 points in 39 games last season. It was the first season that he made it to double digits in points in the NCAA. This past season, he was primarily paired with freshman Joel Messner who is more of a stay at home defenseman, letting Cooper join the attack more often, part of the reason for his increased offensive numbers. Last year, I said that I’d like to see Cooper increase his offensive production, and he did just that: and his numbers jumped from nine to 16 points. For a player more known for his shut down play, that’s a good increase to see. His 16 points were good for eighth on the team. More impressively, four of his five goals were scored on the powerplay, and his four powerplay goals were second on the team. He appeared in every game for the Mavericks and his +14 rating led the team.
Besides increasing his offensive totals, Cooper’s overall game continued to grow. He doesn’t stand out in any one area, but instead has a very well rounded game and is a very smart player. Together, Cooper and Messner were the team’s best pairing last season. The team lost a number of upperclassmen who either graduated or turned pro, and Cooper really stepped up to fill the void left by their departure. Cooper helped lead the team to their first frozen four appearance in team history.
This coming season, I’d like to see Cooper continue to grow his offensive game and remain a steady player on the Mavericks’ backend. More than that, I’d like to see him assume more of a leadership role with the team. As a senior, he’ll be one of the veterans on a team that will be hoping to repeat its performance of reaching the frozen four. It would be great to see Cooper lead them back there in his final season.
After he completes his senior year, I would expect the Ducks to sign Cooper to his entry-level contract at its conclusion. He’ll have his work cut out for him to make an impact in San Diego when he joins them, as the Ducks have a lot of good young defensemen in their system. Cooper’s greatest strength is his versatility; he doesn’t have any particular weakness and can play in virtually any situation. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really stand out in any one area and his size works against him. He’ll need to work hard to stand out from the rest of the Ducks’ prospects. If he has an NHL future, it will be as a fourth or fifth defenseman, a safe player who will bring some offense to the table, but not put up elite numbers. Regardless of whether or not he makes it to the NHL, he’s a few years away from the point where we’ll see him in Anaheim.
My next prospect update will be on Andrew O’Brien.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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