Thayer Academy alum Jake Flynn’s stock rose during a strong first season at UConn. He’s got a chance to be selected during the upcoming NHL Draft.
Jake Flynn hasn’t had to do too much waiting as his hockey career has progressed, but he’s not a total stranger to the concept of patience, either.
Waiting an extra few months to find out if he’ll be drafted by an NHL team, then, hasn’t sent the 19-year-old Bridgewater native over the edge.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been more of a challenge, because your mindset doesn’t really change,” Flynn said. “It’s still, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ whether that’s in June or now. It’s just a little more of a wait.”
The NHL Draft, originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal, will instead be held remotely on Tuesday (Round 1) and Wednesday (Rounds 2-7) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Flynn, a sophomore defenseman at the University of Connecticut who played four seasons at Thayer Academy, is ranked No. 122 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, putting him into “maybe, maybe not” territory.
In Flynn’s favor: The final rank represents a big jump from No. 205, where he stood in the 2019-20 mid-term ratings. Weighing against him: Only 217 players will be drafted, and Flynn is among almost 400 (including 40 goalies) from North America and Europe who’ve been scouted and slotted.
“I really don’t know how it’s going to go, to be honest,” Flynn said. “I’ve talked to some people, and they’ve told me it’s kind of 50-50 – it could go either way. So I’m a little unsure, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
In fact, the draft year experience has been kind of a fun thing – albeit unprecedented, given the manner in which the pandemic shortened seasons worldwide, wiped out the NHL’s annual Scouting Combine, and forced teams to interview players of interest remotely.
“A couple of teams were in contact,” Flynn said, “and it was nice to get interviews like that. You’re asked some good questions so they can get to know you a little, and you get to know them and the organizations a little, as well.”
Those who have tracked Flynn’s career have seen a player capable of stepping into a lineup at a young age against advanced competition, and then steadily raising his profile. He did so at Thayer, moving directly from the South Shore Kings youth program onto the Tigers’ varsity squad as a freshman in 2015-16, and did again last year at UConn, where he played regularly as a true freshman.
Flynn hasn’t necessarily starred from the start, but has always made sure to take advantage of every available opportunity.
“I was pretty young when I got in at Thayer,” said Flynn, who played 30 games without scoring a point for a 2015-16 Tigers team that won Independent Schools League and New England Large Schools championships. “We had a good group of senior defensemen, so Coach (Tony) Amonte kind of let me know it wasn’t a year for me to play a lot.
“But I still developed a lot that year, just by practicing. It was a great learning year for me, even though I wasn’t playing much. I think it helped a lot in my sophomore and junior years; I earned more ice and grew as a player.”
Steadily gaining confidence in his ability to turn defense into offense, Flynn scored 23 points (7 goals, 16 assists) over 28 games as a Thayer senior and ISL All-League selection in 2018-19, and he contributed two goals and seven assists in 30 games as a true freshman this past season at UConn.
“I’d describe myself as a puck-moving defenseman who can skate and get up in the rush,” said Flynn, a right-hand shot who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 185 pounds. “Get the job done in the defensive zone, make sure you get the puck out to your forwards, then go up the ice with them from there. I can play on the offensive side, as well.”
Flynn’s contributions helped the Huskies to the best of their six seasons since joining Hockey East (15-15-4 overall; 12-10-2 HE), and his primary focus this season is on helping UConn continue to build the profile of a program on the rise: He’s one of three draft-eligible Huskies ranked by Central Scouting, joining fellow sophomore defenseman Yan Kuznetsov (No. 36 in North America) and incoming freshman forward Nick Capone (No. 126).
At present, though, Flynn’s mind wanders to the draft – even though there’s a chance he might be among the last to know if he’s selected. With the draft pushed into the academic year, Flynn could be taking a class remotely from his off-campus apartment, or involved in an on- or off-ice workout “pod” (the Huskies are awaiting the go-ahead to hold full-team practices), when the second day of the draft kicks off at 11:30 on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re training, or on the ice, or I’m in a class,” he said. “I could have no clue if I’ve been picked.
“I’m definitely paying more attention as it gets closer, but I’m trying not to let it take over everything I’m doing. It’s great to even have a chance to get drafted, so it’s definitely in the back of my mind.”