Lightning first-round pick Isaac Howard is fueled by competition
BRANDON — Isaac Howard thought he’d be a first-round pick two years before it happened, and he wasn’t afraid to tell people that.
He was 16 and had just been invited to the United States National Hockey Team’s development program when he started training during the summer at Royalty Sports Performance outside of Minneapolis. It wasn’t long before he traded his trainer, Carson Fossum, who also has a clothing line, for free equipment.
“He was like, ‘Carson, can I have a free hoodie?’ said Fossum. “I’m like, ‘Ike, why would I give you a free hoodie?’ and he said, ‘You don’t want a future first-rounder to wear it?’
“And I’m like, ‘Ike, you’ve got a lot of work to do before you get to that’, he’s like, ‘Carson, don’t worry, man, I promise you, you want the early rounds to wear this kind of stuff.'””
The Lightning selected Howard this month with the second-to-last first-round pick, but the 18-year-old stole the show by taking the stage in a white suit straight out of Miami Vice, complete with a flashy belt from American flag. Loop. He said the hottest guy in the room had to dress like that.
“Once in a while he wore a good suit or something,” said Lightning prospect Dylan Duke, who played with Howard on the United States National Team Development Program. “It’s good material. He loves it, so I’m in. I’m not going to wear it myself, but I’m going to take a look at it and get a good smile out of it.
Howard certainly has some swagger. He also thrives in competition, whether it’s fighting for bragging rights with his brothers, playing for one of prep hockey’s top programs, or competing alongside the nation’s best junior players on the team. of American development.
It’s fueled by a determination to win – and a desire to tell you about it.
“Everything is a competition”
Howard grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin as the third of four brothers. Ever since he was able to walk, his father, Tony, said Isaac wanted to be on the ice. He begged to go to his older brothers’ hockey practices just to have the opportunity to be around the rink, so much so that his father started calling him “Iceman”.
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“He was just obsessed with it,” Tony Howard said. “Even in nappies, he was running around our house on skates, and if you tried to take the skates off, he’d start crying before he could really speak well.”
Growing up with three brothers (older brothers Anthony, 23, and Mason, 20, and younger brother Eli, 16), it all became a competition. And Isaac never liked to lose.
“With my dad, we had five boys at home, tons of fights, tons of competitions, everything going on,” Howard said. “I think that’s where it came from, because every time one of my brothers beats me at something, I get pretty mad, so I don’t really let that happen anymore. … Almost everything is a competition. That’s the beauty of having three brothers, tons of two-on-two matches. Everyone wants to be stronger than each other, to fight.
Howard took that competitive advantage at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, an elite hockey prep school about an hour from Howard’s hometown that produced such NHL stars as Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews. Playing with some of the best players in the country, he improved his game, overcoming a groin injury in his under-16 season to score 31 goals and 64 points in 38 games. He then competed in the Youth Olympics, scoring a tournament record seven goals as the United States won the silver medal.
“He’s very dynamic,” Shattuck coach Rich Metro said. “He was one of those guys that when he wanted to go and he could step on somebody, boom, he was gone. He really likes to grab that extra gear and put it under the bar, and you can see that. I don’t know if we ever thought he would be a first-rounder, but we also thought we definitely thought he had a lot of talent and had the ability to be one.
“No one surpasses him”
The summer before Howard reported for the U.S. National Team’s development program in Michigan, gyms were closed in Minnesota. But Fossum let him borrow equipment to create a home gym in the Howard garage, complete with trap bars, dumbbells, plates and dumbbells.
“He did every workout in his garage that I gave him,” Fossum said. “And that’s when I knew, from a work ethic standpoint, he wasn’t going to let COVID stop him. … I would say of all the athletes I’ve trained, no one tops Isaac. He’s going to make sure no one tops him.
Ever since he was a kid, Howard was told he was too short, and at 5-foot-10, he’s not the tallest player. But he has become an elite skater for his age and he has a knack for finding weak spots on the ice quickly to score.
“It hasn’t hurt him yet,” Tony Howard said of his son’s height. “He always gets into tight areas and has no problem heading into the net with it. He’s (ten) very strong on his skates, which helps, and he’s still played a little bit even when he was young, so I think that really helped him playing with bigger guys.
Surrounded by elite players again with the NTDP, Howard became the program’s leading scorer last season, totaling 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists) in 60 games for the U-18 team. He also led Team USA with 11 points at the U-18 World Championships.
Coincidentally, he again earned the nickname “Iceman” from his teammates.
Just days after hearing his name called on draft night, Howard got his first taste of professional life at Lightning development camp. Next week he will travel to Michigan to compete for a spot on the United States Junior National Team, then play his first season at Minnesota-Duluth. He said he could turn pro after one or two seasons there.
“I really like the game,” he said. “It’s the only thing I want to do for my career and, you know, I think I’ve always had confidence in myself. I believe in myself and I know what I’m capable of. If you get this far , you must have confidence, that’s for sure.
“And I just like to have fun with it. I’m a pretty relaxed guy, even in the biggest moments. Not many people get to experience that, so I just have that fun aspect. I want to make it fun.
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