Scotty Bowman the former (legendary) NHL coach was right in the mix with all the other coffee drinking, amateur scouts in Buffalo, Observing prospects at a U.S. National Development Team camp.
Luke Toporowski, Son of Minor League Goon to Future NHL star
Luke Toporowski is the fifteen year old’s name, and if its not a household name right now, just wait until he becomes eligible for the NHL entry draft in three years. It’s a name that Scotty Bowman, 14-time Stanley Cup-winner, had no trouble remembering after watching him skate.
The fact that Luke Toporowski has a father Kerry who played professional hockey isn’t uncommon nor does it hurt. What does make this a bit different from other father & son stories is that Kerry Toporowski was one of the most notorious fighters in hockey history, a player called a “goon” more than once in his 12 years of pro hockey. All while at the minor league level, not including the three games he played for a Russian team in 2001-02. In 65 games for Spokane in 1990-91, Kerry Toporowski accumulated 505 total penalty minutes.
Back in May, the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League selected Toporowski with the eighth pick in the first round of the (WHL) bantam draft, which marked the first time since 2009 that an American born player went in the first round.
For a man that so rarely has praise for young players, Scotty Bowman sure came away raving about this 5’10”, 163-pound 15 year old from the hockey hotbed of…yup, you guessed it, Bettendorf, Iowa.
“He’s one of the best prospects I’ve ever seen,” Bowman said to BlEACHER REport’s Adrian Dater. “He’s got a terrific stride, skates like Crosby. Hard to knock off his feet, just cutting around the defense and accelerating.”
With 22 goals and 11 assists in 20 games last season for head coach Gino Cavalilini and the Chicago Mission, he was the leagues highest scorer. He also led all players in scoring at the 15/16 Pat Quinn Classic Bantam Elite Tournament. “He’s among the strongest skaters I’ve ever coached. I would say, the way he’s tracking, he’s going to be one of the top prospects in the country.”
Bringing A More Skilled Game
How did the youngest son of one of the meanest, nastiest players straight out of the “Slap Shot” era of hockey turn into one of the U.S.’ top offensive prospects?
“Good question. I don’t know,” Luke Toporowski also said to Dater. “Fighting’s not much a part of the game anymore. I’d probably do a little more of it if it was.”
Not that he is shy about the physical parts of the game.
“Oh no, he plays hard. He goes into the corners and he’ll bang with anyone in front of the net. “He’ll do anything to score a goal. He’s not a selfish player, but he’s got an insatiable drive to score goals and help his team win”
“He’s a bit of a throwback player, who really drives the net. You see him walking around the rink just in his street clothes, and you wouldn’t think much of him physically, but he’s very strong and he’s going to get bigger,” Coach Cavallini added.
Why the WHL over the College Route?
“For me, I just thought that was my best option,” said Luke, who attends Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf. “I feel like it’s more toward a regular NHL schedule, and that’s obviously my goal, to play in the NHL.”
Said Kerry: “There’s a little more money to be made scoring goals. He’s on the surer path than I took. But I enjoyed what I did.” A left-shooting winger, Toporowski has what hockey people call “good edges,” meaning he cuts and drives past opponents on his skates with ease. In the family basement, there is a “shooting wall,” which Luke regularly fires 300 to 500 pucks off of a night. Maybe a big NHL paycheck will go toward repairing the dents, someday.
Main Photo: Courtesy of Kerry Toporowski. Luke Toporowski, signing to play with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL.