Thursday, January 04, 2018

Nolan McElhaney: Cushing Academy Defenseman Commits to UNH

Nolan McElhaney
2019 UNH Commit
"Long reach, soft hands, and a swift first pass. Is a high-ceiling prospect." Neutral Zone
"He (Nolan McElhaney) skates well for his size, with great long strides." U.S. Hockey Report
"He is a strong skater with great acceleration who has the offensive instincts to jump into the rush, and he continues to show a rapidly developing offensive game." Steve Jacobs, Head Coach, Cushing Academy
Since Mike Souza returned to his alma mater in July, 2015 as the "head coach in waiting", he has helped recruit several big, mobile defensemen who can thrive in UNH's transition style of play. These include sophomore Anthony Wyse (6'3", 225 lbs.), freshmen Max Gildon (6'3", 191 lbs.), Benton Maass (6'2", 195 lbs.), and James Miller (6'2", 190 lbs.) and 2018 commit Corson Green (6'1", 210 lbs.). A couple weeks ago, another defenseman in that mold committed to UNH. Nolan McElhaney, a 6'3", 190 lbs., right-shot defenseman from Yorba Linda, California, by way of Cushing Academy, is projected to matriculate in the fall of 2019.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Nolan McElhaney  (D) Cushing Academy NE Prep 14 9 15 24 14
EMass Senators MHSL U18 18 7 6 13 24
Cushing Academy NE Prep 32 5 10 15 -
EMass Senators MHSL U18 14 1 8 19 15
Cushing Academy NE Prep 31 3 4 7 -
Junior Bruins MHSL U16 11 4 2 6 10

Scouts who have followed McElhaney since he came to Massachusetts as a freshman at Cushing Academy have identified his high-end potential. In December, 2015, U.S. Hockey Report said he "could get a lot of attention in the years to come". Soon after the Neutral Zone scouting service launched, they observed McElhaney at the Massachusetts Tier 1 Labor Day Showcase in September, 2016 and wrote:
"Nolan has a lot of tools. He is 6’3”, handled the puck very well and takes passing lanes away with his long reach. He looked poised on the power play and scored a very nice goal. The 1999 from CA is an elite talent who has a ton of upside."
McElhaney began last season as a 170 lbs. junior at Cushing. He scored 5 goals and 8 assists in 29 regular season games. Cushing Academy qualified for the New England Prep Small School playoffs. In 3 games, McElhaney tallied 2 assists but the Penguins lost in the finals 2-3 to Pomfret. Neutral Zone's review of the Championship Game served as a marker on McElhaney's progress:
"McElhaney is a tall, thin, raw but mobile defenseman. He doesn’t have the strength to play the game the way he wants to play it but is able to defend with his long stick and body positioning. He’s got a decent shot from the point and did a nice job here in keeping pucks in the offensive zone. He made a few nice breakout passes and broke up a few passes in his own end but overall it was a quiet game for Nolan. We still believe he has great upside as he fills into his body and plays a more shutdown game, but he’s got a long way to go."
The 2017-18 New England Prep regular season is less than half over and Nolan McElhaney has already demonstrated gains in several areas. He has added 20 lbs. to his 6'3" frame. Over the first 14 games, he has already doubled his scoring totals from last season. Among all New England Prep defensemen, McElhaney has tallied the most goals (9), assists (15) and points (24). His 1.71 points per game average is the highest among all defensemen and 10th among all New England Prep players.

Groton/Lawrence Holiday Hockey Tournament

At the Groton/Lawrence tourney in mid-December, McElhaney won the Most Valuable Player award and Cushing won the championship. He tallied a goal and the overtime, game-winning assist against Lawrence Academy, which includes UNH commit Connor Sweeney. He posted 4 assists, including the game-winning assist, in the 5-0 shutout of Pomfret and added another goal in the 4-1 defeat of Holderness. In the championship game, Cushing defeated Culver Academy, which features UNH commit Jackson Pierson. McElhaney scored his 3rd goal of the tournament in the 3-1 victory. Here's Neutral Zone's review of McElhaney's performance at the Groton/Lawrence Tourney:

"Nolan had a big weekend. He committed to UNH shortly after the tournament. He is still a little raw but has started to piece everything together. He is very long and still has room to fill out. He moves well for a bigger body and has the speed to recover on defense. He was impressive offensively on the weekend, consistently activating into the play to create scoring opportunities. On the back-end he uses a long reach to keep forwards to the outside. He is not overly physical, but doesn’t shy away from contact. Should only get better."
Overall Player Rating - 3 3/4 out 5 Stars.

E.G. Watkins/Cushing New Years Tournament

Following a 12-day break for the Christmas holiday, Nolan McElhaney and the Cushing Academy Penguins returned to action in the 27th Annual E.G. Watkins New Years Invitational Tournament at Iorio Arena on the Cushing campus. The day before the tourney began, Cushing Head Coach Steve Jacobs provided me with this assessment of McElhaney's strengths:
"Nolan is a highly competitive character player with a strong "all around" game. He has length at 6'3 and is hockey smart. He is a strong skater with great acceleration who has the offensive instincts to jump into the rush, and he continues to show a rapidly developing offensive game. He is a crisp and accurate passer who plays with poise and he makes high end plays. His battle level is always high in both practice and games, and he leads by example with his day to day preparation. He contributes at both ends of the ice and on both special teams. He is a dominant player at the prep school level."
In Cushing's opening game against Northfield-Mount Hermon, McElhaney's offensive blitz continued with an assist and the overtime, game-winning goal. He picked up another goal and 2 assists in the 5-0 win over Governor's Academy. Finally, McElhaney distributed 2 assists in the 3-2 overtime victory over Dexter in the 3rd-Place game. The second assist was critical as it came on the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation. Both of McElhaney's goals and this game-tying assist in the Watkins Tournament are shown in this highlight video. Note how these goals come from the faceoff circles:


I had an opportunity to interview Nolan McElhaney, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Nolan McElhaney: I chose UNH because I loved the campus and its the best place for me for school. I also really like what the coaching staff is trying to do within the next couple years and I want to be a part of what they are trying to accomplish. I am a huge fan of the big ice sheet as it compliments my style of play very well, so I believe that I would be able to take over during games. Practicing and playing every day on that ice will get me more ready for the next level. The positive atmosphere of the games is a thrill, furthermore I have always wanted to be a part of those games.

Mike Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Nolan McElhaney: We have a target date for the fall of 2019 but Coach Souza might want me to come in during the summer before to take some courses.

Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

McElhaney: Other schools I was considering were Providence College, Umass Lowell, UConn, and Boston University. I went to Providence over the summer and I wasn’t offered anywhere else at the time when I took UNH’s offer.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

McElhaney: My strengths of my game include my shot, my first pass up ice, my ability to jump in the play and create offense, and how I can be a shut down guy if I need to be. I'm trying to improve my defensive zone positioning and finishing off plays before jumping in the play. I need to focus more on becoming a better skater before I come into UNH. I am also trying to add weight and strength to my body.

Lowry: Last year, in your junior season at Cushing Academy, you scored 5 goals and 10 assists in 32 games. So far this season, in only 10 games, you've scored 7 goals and 10 assists. What factors have lead to this big jump in performance?

McElhaney: I was in the weight room all summer only focusing on getting better and stronger. I worked on the areas I needed to work on, on the ice, to bring my game to the next level. I also have gained a lot of confidence from the NCAA and junior interest and it keeps my confidence up. Our team has a goal and I just want to be the best I can be for them in accomplishing that goal. Coach Jacobs has also really helped me this year in becoming more calm and a more consistent player. My D-partner, Cam Berube, has also been pushing me to become the best I could be the past three years and I try to match his intensity every game, practice and day.

Lowry: Last June, you participated in the Sioux Falls Stampede's tryout camp. Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League or British Columbia Hockey League before you come to UNH?

McElhaney: I plan on playing in the USHL next year before I come to UNH in 2019. Not sure where I will end up in the USHL but wherever I do, I know I will love the atmosphere of playing in that league and love the style of juniors.

Lowry: You grew up in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. When did you first start skating and playing hockey? Who helped spur your interest in the sport?

McElhaney: I started skating around 2 years old and started hockey around 3. My dad went to prep school at Lawrence Academy and played in college at Clarkson, so he was always a fan of hockey. My mom says that she pushed me more to play hockey, so my mom is the one who really introduced me to the sport. My dad just had the background in hockey.

Lowry: In your freshman and sophomore years at Orange Lutheran High School, the team advanced to the USA Hockey National Championships. Why did you decide to come east to Cushing Academy?

McElhaney: It was fun playing in California, but it wasn't as competitive as I would like. As being the only kid wanting to play Division I college hockey, I knew I had to go out east where every game is competitive and every kid has the dream of playing college hockey. My dad went to Lawrence Academy but that wasn't on my list of schools. Once I visited Cushing, it felt like home for me and I was pleased with what Coach Gagnon told me about the program at Cushing and the future. Coming to Cushing was the best choice I could have made. I have had the best time here and a lot of fun playing for such a prestigious program that there is at Cushing. I knew as soon as I toured that this place would get me to the next level while being a great fit for me.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

McElhaney: I really like Math and Science, those are my top two classes in school. I will probably study Business and Finance.


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