Fargo Force defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) was invited on Thursday to the NHL’s Central Scouting Draft Combine.
Cooper, 18, was one of 13 USHL players invited to the camp which starts at the end of May in Toronto. Eighty-eight North American players (78 skaters, 10 goaltenders) were invited along with 17 European players (14 skaters, three goaltenders) to the combine.
In all, it is considered to be the best collection of players eligible for the NHL Draft.
The combine will run May 28 through June 2 giving NHL teams a chance to meet and speak with potential prospects.
Quite a few NHL teams have spoken with Cooper, who in the last three years has emerged as a possible third-or-fourth round pick in this summer’s draft.
The 5-10, 180-pound defenseman was the Force’s team captain and played a different style than he’s showed in the past. A young defensive corps made Cooper more of a stay-at-home defenseman who wasn’t involved much in the rush like had been in previous seasons.
Cooper finished the season with 24 points (6 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games and a plus-16 rating in 55 games this year. He also represented Team USA at the World Junior “A” Challenge for the second year in a row.
He captained the team to a bronze medal.
Cooper came to the Force as a 15-year-old and in his three-year career put up 70 points (20 goals, 50 assists) while amassing 293 penalty minutes in 161 career games while playing in a Clark Cup Finals as a rookie.
In all, he was a member of three playoff teams. He finished this year’s USHL Playoffs with three points in five games as the Force were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Lincoln Stars.
He’s currently a senior at Fargo South where holds a 3.8 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. After graduation, he’ll go to Nebraska-Omaha and has said he would pursue being a podiatrist if his hockey career does not work out.
Cooper is one of several Force players eligible for this year’s draft.
Defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame) along with forwards Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), Jay Dickman, Nate Arentz and Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) are all also eligible for the draft.