When the NHL’s Central Scouting Service released its buzz-creating list of prospects for the upcoming entry draft, the casual hockey fan might have been surprised to see that St. Cloud State’s Casey Borer was near the top.
Borer, one of 27 players with ties to the WCHA listed in the North American skater ranking, was rated highest among draft-eligible WCHA defensemen.
“I was very honored to see that the NHL scouts included me on their list of prospects,” Borer said, “but I can’t get too worked up about it yet.”
Although it’s likely Borer will be selected in the early rounds of the entry draft later this month, he will most likely gain a bit more seasoning in west central Minnesota … for now.
“Right now, I’m focusing on improving on my freshman season at St. Cloud,” Borer said. “I’m anxious to see what will happen at the draft, but, as of now, I plan on playing at St. Cloud for four years.”
Borer is in no hurry to cash in on his rising stock among professional scouts. Less than satisfied with the Huskies’ 2003-04 run, Borer wants to help elevate St. Cloud State to the echelon recently occupied by his childhood team of favor — Minnesota.
“I want to bring a national championship to St. Cloud,” Borer said. “But most importantly, I want to help maintain the tradition of success that has been built here.”
According to St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl, Borer’s freshman statistics — zero goals, eight assists, and a plus-minus rating of minus-2 — are misleading and not representative of his first-year performance. Borer was steady and dependable as a young player who earned more responsibilities as the season progressed. The SCSU sophomore-to-be has, according to Dahl, unlimited potential.
“Casey came to us straight out of high school,” Dahl said. “He made outstanding progress during his freshman year and he has a tremendous hockey future ahead of him. It’s not important what you’ve done in the past; it’s what you can do in the future.”
Unlike the majority of his teammates and opponents, Borer doesn’t have the added benefit offered by experience at the junior level. However, considering that Borer was groomed at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the U.S. National Development Program, the WCHA was perhaps his most logical next step.
“A poor year in the USHL can really damage your confidence,” Borer said. “We played some incredible competition in Ann Arbor [with the USNTDP], including five WCHA teams.”
Unlike recent WCHA success story Jordan Leopold, Borer is unlikely to quarterback the power play or dazzle fans with an end-to-end scoring rush. The young Brooklyn Park, Minn., native is more of the classic stay-at-home defenseman who has not relied on offensive brilliance to get noticed by those at the next level. Dahl is confident Borer will be a “defensive defenseman in the long run.”
“I always think defense first, but I think the offense comes with confidence and experience,” Borer said. “Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to get more involved in the offense this year, possibly getting more time on the power play.”
Aside from his as-yet incomplete goals for the Huskies program, Borer has some growing of his own to do.
“Casey is a young kid playing in the WCHA,” Dahl said. “He is still filling out his body. What Casey needs most is experience and strength.”
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Borer is a nice-sized defenseman with room to grow. With potentially three more seasons to develop under Dahl, Borer will definitely have a chance to mature physically as well. His specs are almost identical to those of David Hale, the former University of North Dakota defenseman who signed with the New Jersey Devils after the 2002-03 WCHA season. Hale, during his three years in Grand Forks, didn’t manage to post more than nine points in a season. So there is a precedent for the defensive-minded blueliners making the jump from the WCHA to the NHL. But Hale did have two seasons in the United States League to his benefit, one of which produced a respectable six goals and 18 assists.
Depending on what transpires on draft day in North Carolina, Borer may be forced to seriously weigh his options earlier than planned. NHL scouts obviously think very highly of this young defenseman, but his motivation to bring a championship to the Granite City might just be enough to fend off any urges to sign on the dotted line.
(This article originally appeared in this month’s edition of USCHO Magazine.)