The Tampa Bay Lightning’s most recent first-round pick was inches from the top five in our countdown, but has buckets of potential to end up much higher very soon. Howard was ranked 31st overall by Lightning in 2022, but was ranked among the teens by many before the draft. The fact that a top-tier skiing prospect has fallen and worked hard in the lap of Tampa Bay is a huge boost. Howard will head to the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season as he begins his NCAA career.
Isaac Howard comes from the US national team development program as he beat fellow recruit Logan Cooley who ended up in third place last summer with 82 points in 60 games. Auston Matthews is the all-time leader in points in a single season in this team, but Howard has positioned himself as the 11th all-time leader alongside players like Trevor Zegras and Matt Boldy.
He was ranked 20th by Bob McKenzie just a few months ago, was taken 19th in the SBN Mock Draft by LAK (written by our own Justin!), and was Minnesota’s top prospect in the draft class according to Hockey Wilderness. Getting into the Lightning system with that kind of resume, despite his age, made him an automatic top five player, and I even considered him third on Cal Foote because I see the potential of his top six players. It’s really hard not to see a future among this kid’s top six based on all his comparisons.
When Howard is on the ice, he brings a high level of hockey IQ and speed, but most importantly he has a very good shot. The essence of Howard’s success lies in skating. He has very efficient mechanics and a very stable base, which allows him to move very quickly in a straight line but also laterally flexibly in the top half. Having a solid lower body, despite his size, has given him success in dirty areas and in keeping opponents off the disc when he has it. He’s by no means the head of MSL at the moment, but he’s in a good place for an 18-year-old to grow and develop.
As for his shot, he’s not the Austin Matthews I mentioned above with a massive heavy shot, but he’s capable of twisting and taking shots out of different, often awkward angles, with plenty of speed. If you put the disk in its public area, it will know how to connect it to the network.
Overall, Howard follows Trevor Zegras’ example of new US hockey players connecting their incredible creativity and deception with the goals the team needs to have better scoring chances.
This includes neutral-zone feints, which dangle around the perimeter in order to create weak points in the middle, using speed and clever movement of the foot to be able to move around the defender. This is something that has been pervasive across all of Team USA’s U18 and U20 teams over the past few years (and interesting enough it’s not what we’ve ever seen in Canadian teams).
This type of hockey is inherently risky for scouts – especially those who are a little more lethargic than others – because the flash is stylistically unprofessional and childish. But these young players today have discovered how to think outside the box but with clear goals in mind on the ice.
Looking at the first round of 2022, teams that failed in the playoffs and finished in the 1920s went pretty much with “classic” hockey players who are big, candid and skilled because I think they feel they have more to lose. And I’m sure those guys are great, but Isaac Howard has been consistently seen as the best and a team like Lightning who’s frankly less concerned with prospects right now has no problem pulling the trigger.
Brayden Point vs. Isaac Howard. Similar hilarious. It’d be epic if Lightning got another star 8 years later with the same type of profile as the overlooked Point…again. pic.twitter.com/50GhW9QCrb
– Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) August 22 2022
As mentioned above, Howard will be heading to Minnesota-Duluth as the top draft team next year. Despite being a generally low-scoring team, Minnesota-Duluth had a good season and went far in the playoffs. I expect Howard to give them a big boost, but at the same time I don’t expect Howard to spend much time there. I think you’ll soon see Howard come to professional hockey, and maybe straight to the NHL in a couple of years.
Since Sammy Walker, I’ve been afraid the Minnesota boys will leave us in the sunshine to go play for their hometown team, so if Lightning can get Howard at ELC long before his rights expire in the summer of 2026, that would be excellent. I think this guy is really good and he’s on a new wave of American hockey players that the Lightning is going to want to be a part of.
Can’t stop thinking about this interview with Isaac Howard, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first round player.
It was full of personality pic.twitter.com/hGUVxzNbIW
– Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) July 8, 2022
eyes widening moment
Things got a little crazy at the USNTDP-Cedar Rapids game tonight.
Here’s Isaac Howard taking a few cheap shots on his way out pic.twitter.com/edFmKdIT22
– Cam Robinson (@Hockey_Robinson) 4 April 2022
They threw together some highlights from Isaac Howard’s Under-18 year in the NTDP. A strong skater who sees the ice well, works hard and can finish. Almarai said today that # screws I think he’ll be off the board by the time the 31st selection process rolls around. pic.twitter.com/04Xd4e21YS
– Chris Crane (@Chris_Krenn) July 8, 2022