MAGNESS ARENA — Denver Pioneers freshman Bobby Brink is having quite the year to remember.
After being named the USHL Forward of the Year, and shortly before his 18th birthday, the Philadelphia Flyers expended both their second and third-round picks (45th and 65th overall) to trade up to select Brink with the 34th selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Then after a strong start to his freshman campaign at Denver, the Minnesota native was selected to represent Team USA at the 2020 World Junior Championship tournament as the youngest member of the American team.
Most recently, the 18-year-old forward was just named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for January after leading all conference freshman with six assists and nine points in eight games. It was the second time this season Brink has been bestowed with such an honor, earning the Rookie of the Month title back in October, as well.
In total, the Pioneers freshman is tied for the team lead with 10 goals and sits second on the team with 23 points in 27 games. He also paces the Pios with five power-play points and leads all NCHC freshman in that category.
“I think I just got comfortable with the team early,” said Brink of his fast start to his NCAA career. “A lot of the guys helped me out adjusting to the game pretty well. DC (head coach David Carle) has been really good about helping me adjust and showing me what I can improve.”
Brink currently sits tied for fifth in goals of the entire NCAA Division I freshman class, while sitting just one point shy of a top-five spot in points with another local 2019 NHL Draft class member in Colorado Avalanche prospect Alex Newhook, who, like Brink, also opted to take the college hockey route — with Boston College in Newhook’s case — rather than the CHL’s major junior option.
NCAA or CHL is choice that every prospective NHL product faces as a teenager. For Brink, he chose the former for his development.
“I thought it’d just be better for my development, getting to play against older guys. You get more time in the gym to get bigger and stronger,” said Brink of his collegiate choice. “I think those are the two areas where I could use it.”
Brink is a smaller guy at 5-foot-8, 164 pounds, and that’s one of the reasons why he chose the collegiate route for his development he says. In Division I hockey, players’ ages range from 18-24, offering the opportunity to see how they stack up against older and often times inherently bigger competition. Whereas, in one of the developmental CHL leagues like the ever popular Quebec Major Junior league or the Ontario Hockey League, the age limit is restricted to a younger crowd of 16-21 year olds.
Before his selection by the Flyers in the 2019 draft, Brink committed to the University of Denver as the program’s top recruit, having been listed as the 19th-ranked North American skater on the NHL’s Central Scouting list ahead of his selection at 34th overall.
“Great coaches, awesome culture here,” said Brink of his commitment choice. “All of the guys get along so well. Denver is such a nice city and it’s just a nice place to be.”
While the rest of his Pioneers teammates were on holiday break — save junior captain Ian Mitchell, who was off in Switzerland winning the Spengler Cup — Brink traded in his comfortable Denver digs for a holiday stay in the Czech Republic for the annual World Junior Championship tournament.
As the youngest member of Team USA, Brink tallied a goal and added an assist in the tournament to help the young Americans to a sixth-place finish.
“It was awesome,” Brink said of the international experience. “It was a big stage and playing for your country is always an honor. It’s a lot of pressure in those games but it was a lot of fun playing against the high competition.”
While it’s an intimidating stage to perform on, Brink said the World Juniors really wasn’t much different that what is used to at Denver.
“The guys are a little bit younger and it’s a bit more skilled. But it’s kind of similar in the structure to it,” he added.
With a wealth of new experiences in the last nine months — from being named USHL’s Top Forward, to a second-round pick in the NHL draft, to playing for his country and leading the DU Pioneers — it’s time to settle down and focus his attention back on his team, his improving and his development in Denver.
“I think just keep working on the skating, keep getting in the gym and getting bigger and stronger. I think those are the two areas I could improve on the most,” Brink said of his goals as he finishes his freshman season.
With only about two months left in the NCAA year, and given the incredible season he’s having, Brink says he’s unsure of what the future holds as far as potentially making a run at Philadelphia Flyers training camp before the 2020-21 campaign. The Flyers brass have been to a few of Brink’s game this season and have talked with their fast-budding prospect a few times, he says.
He is in no rush, however. Brink has been living fast this past year, and for now he’s just going to keep going with the flow.
“I’ll just kind of feel it out,” he said of his future. “I’m not really sure how many years (I’ll be at Denver) or what’s going to happen, but you just kind of play it as it happens.”