Last season, St. John’s Prep winger Sam Kurker provided grit and a scoring touch to the Eagles’ Super 8 run with 15 goals for 25 points.
This season, the Reading resident and Boston University commit has exploded, nearly matching last year’s output by midseason with 12 goals in 11 games. While shouldering a greater load offensively, the Eagles’ co-captain has also stepped up to lead a young returning squad in search of a repeat appearance at the TD Garden.
Kurker has also garnered attention on the national level. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder played with the Team U.S.A. U-18 Select team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August, traveling to play in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Earlier this month, Kurker was ranked 41st among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm rankings and was the second highest ranked high school-level player on the list.
We recently caught up with Kurker for a Q & A:
Q: How are things going along with your linemates Tyler Bird and Brian Pinho?
A: “I clearly have two great teammates. We’ve been working well together. Those guys are working hard, and that’s only benefited me. They’ve been a huge part of my success.”
Q: What is your earliest hockey memory?
A: “I think it’s my Reading Mites games and getting up early for the rink with my father. After Mites, I played with the Valley Junior Warriors. But I’ve still have a couple friends I’ve kept in touch with from those days, we still keep up with how each other is doing, a couple of my teammates on the Warriors, too.”
Q: What were you able to glean from Colin Blackwell in terms of leadership on and off the ice?
A: “It was the work ethic he had on and off the ice. We’d always go against each other in battle drills, and he was one of the toughest kids I’ve ever played with. He always got us going.”
Q: How have players like yourself, or seniors like David Letarte and Nick Pandalena, taken on the role of leading the team this year?
A: “From freshman year, we’ve seen how other groups have done it. We now what works and what doesn’t work. We talked it over in the offseason a lot. We just want to have the best atmostphere in the locker room. Guys are really working hard, and it’s impressed us so far. We just want to be positive. Last year, we had great team chemistry and want to have that again this year. We’ve done off-the-ice stuff, too. We did some community service projects at the Salem Boys & Girls Club for their Christmas party and serving food.”
Q: What were your expectations for this team, coming in with such a young group?
A: “We have 13, 14 new faces, so there was a lot of chance. So were really just getting used to each other, playing with each other. After the CM game, we’ve been playing very strong. We’re just trying to make sure there’s no let downs. I think we’re just starting to hit our stride as a team now.”
Q: What led you to your commitment for Boston University?
A: “I love the coaches, love the campus. I’ve been a BU fan since I was 5 years old and gone to Beanpot games, watching those BU-BC rivalry games. I looked at Northeastern and Providence College, too, but then once BU come on board, it was a clear choice to me.”
Q: What were some of the things you worked on during the offseason?
A: “I’d work our four days a week at [new hired Red Sox strength and conditioning coach] Mike Boyle’s place. There’s shooting place next door, too, so I’d go back and forth. I’ve been focusing on finishing and that’s helped me a lot.”
Q: You bring a big frame to the ice and play a physical game. Do you enjoy the physical aspect of the game?
A: “Absolutely, that’s part of my game. At the next level, that’s going to be something I’ll have to, so it’s something that I enjoy. I really pride myself in trying to win every battle on the half wall. That’s important to me and it’s a part of the game that I need to focus on.”
Q: On being ranked as high as you did on the Midterm Rankings, do you feel any pressure to live up to the billing?
A: “Honestly, it’s so far away [the NHL Draft], that I’m just focusing on the next thing. The priority right now is getting back to the Super 8 and winning the Catholic Conference. It’s an honor to be considered with all those great players, but it’s so far off, that you just can’t think about that.”