Player profile: Brad Hunt brings more than a slap shot to Bemidji State men's hockey team
Every college hockey player is recruited on some kind of signature skill.
Bemidji State junior defenseman Brad Hunt was recruited out of British Columbia on the power of his heavy slap shot and he has given much more to the Beavers in his first three seasons on the team.
"He's a very good defender," Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. "He's a guy who has tremendous depth to his game. He's got good vision, a great shot and very good puck skills. He contests a lot of shots and he doesn't get beat one-on-one a lot because he's smart. You don't get too many players like Brad Hunt. I think he's probably the best defenseman we've had at the Division I level because he's multi-dimensional."
Hunt developed his shot while growing up 30 miles east of Vancouver in the Coastal Mountains river town of Maple Ridge. His father Steve, a former goalie, turned the Hunt backyard into a shooting gallery and gave his son tips on how to beat goalies.
"We set up a deck so I didn't have to shoot off the grass and not worry about the garage door anymore - the garage door took quite a beating from all the pucks," Hunt said. "My dad moved the deck into the backyard so if I missed the net I just hit the fence ... I just kept shooting pucks from when I was little until I came here. I love shooting pucks I guess and I love to shoot it as hard as I can every single time."
Hunt started his hockey career as a forward in pee-wees, but shifted to defense the following year because he was able to find more playing time on the blue line.
Listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Hunt is not a prototypical defenseman and admits he is undersized at the position. But his shot carried him through his early career and when it came time to play at the next level, Hunt favored American college hockey over Canadian major juniors.
Maple Ridge natives Brendan Morrison, Kaleb Betts and Brandon Yip all played college hockey and were influences on Hunt's choice to take the college route. Morrison is a 12-year NHL veteran, Yip is in his second season with the Colorado Avalanche and Betts plays in the Nashville Predators organization.
"That (major juniors) was never really my mindset," Hunt said. "There were some players from Maple Ridge that went on to play college hockey and told my Dad it was a good experience so he pushed it that way. I was always the smaller kid growing up and major juniors had bigger kids. It was a just a different view for me. I wanted to play college hockey and I thought that was the right thing for me."
The Bemidji State coaching staff noticed Hunt when he played for the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League. He was the second highest scoring defenseman in the BCHL in 2006-07 with 16 goals and 39 assists. Hunt was voted the team's most popular player and his positive, outgoing personality came with him to Bemidji.
He piled up awards his rookie season at BSU in a season where he played in all 37 games for the Beavers. He was a regular on the power play and had nine goals and 23 assists. He was named College Hockey America's Rookie of the Year, CHA All-Tournament and NCAA Midwest Regional All Tournament in BSU's historic Frozen Four season.
"Brad came in as an impact freshman and we don't get a ton of impact freshmen here at Bemidji State," Serratore said. "He exceeded our expectations. From the day he set foot on campus he was very confident. He took charge. He's a leader on the ice."
Hunt continued to play well as a sophomore and was an All-CHA First Team player in a seven goal and 26 assist season. The 26 assists was one short of tying Luke Erickson's Division I record for assists in a season set in 2004-05.
The points have not come as easily for Hunt this season in the WCHA. He has 13 assists so far and did not score his first goal until the 4-1 victory at Minnesota State two weeks ago.
"I guess I'm dealing with a little bit of adversity, we're coming into a new league and it's harder to get my shot off because maybe some teams have recognized it," Hunt said. "I just have to keep working hard. I'm not concerned about it because I think it has forced me to become a better all-around defenseman. It's forced me to not worry so much about my offensive game and work on my defensive game, which I don't think was the greatest the last couple of years. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
The goal-scoring drought is not a major concern for Serratore, who pointed to Hunt's leadership and the stability he brings to the power play. BSU's power play is running at a WCHA-best 20.3 percent .
"It takes five guys but the puck has to go through Brad (on the power play)," Serratore said. "If he doesn't have the ability to shoot he does have the ability to make plays ... Look at the success we've had with Brad Hunt - a Frozen Four and a NCAA Tournament - he's our leader of the defensive corps heading into this season in the WCHA. We've relied heavily on Brad."
Hunt, who enjoys watching movies in his free time, will graduate next year with a degree in business administration. Southern British Columbia and Bemidji may be worlds apart in terms of hockey and lifestyle, but Hunt has made the transition work.
"I just came here on a visit and fell in love with the place," Hunt said. "I come from a city mentality and coming here it was a smaller town. Everyone here is super nice and I've had nothing but a good experience and nothing but good things to say about the town of Bemidji. I love it here."