With the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL’s) Priority Selection Draft taking place this past weekend, the Brantford Bulldogs (formerly known as the Hamilton Bulldogs) may have just given American-born prospect Cooper Dennis a very nice contingency plan when they selected him in the 6th round with the 109th overall pick.
Dennis is a 15-year-old center who is a native of Ithaca, NY. He played this season for the Bishop Kearney Selects 15U AAA team based out of Rochester, NY. Going into this junior hockey draft Cooper was regarded as one of the top prospects from the 2007 birth year draft class, but because he had not yet hit a growth spurt and still stands at only 5’5, his stock plummeted. As I watched this selection process, I noticed far less talented players being taken off the board one right after another just because they have already reached heights of, say, 6’1 and are already tipping the scales at anywhere from 175-200 pounds.
Oddly, Cooper was dealt a similar fate this past March when he was one of 45 players asked to attend the United States National Team Development Programs Evaluation Camp. His goal was to be one of thirteen forwards to make the cut for their U17 Team for next season. But when the roster was announced earlier this month, Dennis discovered he was unsuccessful in reaching that goal. Even though his season’s totals far surpassed that of other highly touted 2007-born NHL Draft hopefuls like L.J. Mooney-who is a couple of months older than Dennis, is the same height, and weighs seven pounds less than him. (When looking at their stats, Cooper scored 52 more points than Mooney this season). Then there’s William Moore-who is already sixteen years old and currently stands at 6’3 and 165 pounds. (Cooper bested his totals by scoring 64 more points than Moore this season) however, both of those players somehow managed to make Team USA, and Dennis didn’t. Someone, please explain that to me.
So, although Dennis has not yet confirmed he will play for Brantford, I think it might be a viable option at this point, considering the Bulldogs were the 2018 and 2022 OHL Champions. My only suggestion throughout the next few seasons would be for Dennis to load up on the proteins and drink as much milk as humanly possible to try and overcome his shortcomings. Just kidding. He should try to use Team USA’s gross oversight in not selecting him as fuel to continue cultivating his game to the point that when the 2025 NHL Entry Draft is set to commence he will have proved all his doubters wrong. Whether Cooper takes his talents north of the border to play with the Bulldogs or finds somewhere else to play closer to home is still yet to be determined. Regardless of where he plays, you can bet he will flourish in whatever league he chooses. I’m confident in that statement because Dennis has been regarded as having one of the best shots of anyone his age for the past couple of years.
Gifted with the type of release that defies Newton’s Laws of Motion (given Cooper’s current size), there’s no way that this old goaltender-turned-writer should have had to watch a replay in Slow Mo that many times just to see when a puck he shot hit the back of the net. With that being said, I don’t doubt that this young prospect will one day find himself walking across the stage to shake the hand of an awaiting NHL General Manager who just called his name.
If you disagree with me, all you must do to validate my hypothesized prophecy is look at Cooper’s stats. Last year, while playing 14U AAA hockey for the Selects, Cooper scored 75 goals and 76 assists for 151 points in just 76 games. That means not only did he average just shy of one goal a game, but he also managed to score darn near two points per game. And that same year, while playing in the North East Pack League (a small division in which some of the area’s most prominent teams come together to face off against one another), Dennis scored 11 goals and ten assists for 21 points in 16 games played.
— Prime Hockey (@PrimeHockeyNA) February 12, 2022
While playing for Bishop Kearney’s 15U AAA Team this season, Dennis put up 53 goals and 60 assists for 113 points in 75 games. And in the North Pack games, Cooper was able to net six goals and five assists for eleven points in just eight games this season.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would think a kid that has scored 145 goals and totaled 296 points over the past two seasons should have had the opportunity to wear his country’s colors next season, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see if his play elsewhere next year proves that statement to be true.