Most draft boards have American forward Logan Cooley as a top three prospect for the 2022 NHL draft. He's been good, with two goals and four points to sit third in tournament scoring. But Isaac Howard has, for much of the tournament, been one of the highlights for the Americans.
Heading into the playoff round, Howard is near the top of the scoring charts with five goals and six points. Four of his goals came against Canada, but as a whole, Howard has earned some extra attention from scouts, with the most important part of the tournament still to come.
Depending on who you talked to before the tournament, Howard is either a potential top 10 pick, or won't even be selected in the first round. Right now, it's leaning closer to the former, and it's still early days in Germany.
"One of the better goal-scorers in the draft," a scout said. "He can get creative, isn't afraid to shoot from just about anywhere. He's very tough in close, but gets good volume from the faceoff dots and the high slot, too."
Howard was the USNTDP's top scorer heading into the tournament with 32 goals and 77 points, eight points clear of Cooley. Cooley played nine fewer games, but Howard was one of just two 30-goal scorers -- Cutter Gauthier (31) being the other. Howard finished one point behind Frank Nazar for the point lead on the U-17 team last year, but Nazar skated in nine more games. Howard had a strong impact with USA's U-18 World Championship team with a goal and four points in five games as an underaged player, setting the stage for an even bigger performance in Germany this year.
The NHL team that selects Howard is getting a player determined to score at any cost. Howard's release is among the best in the draft class. When he's really on his game, his all-out attack mode is a pain in the rear end to defend against. Howard's hands in close are also top-notch.
His 5-foot-10 frame isn't really a problem, but his decision-making when passing the puck can be a bit of a mixed bag. That's something he'll likely iron out when he heads to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA next season. His defensive game is fine, but will need fine-tuning, and he's still missing some extra horsepower, too.
"His deficits are coachable," a scout said. "And that's intriguing. His draft position will be determined by how much work a given team needs to put into his game."
There's a lot of hype for Howard, who has to be one of the tougher wingers to defend against. Even if you think you've got him covered by preventing him from getting too close to the net, he'll beat you with a deceptive shot. You can't leave him alone too long, either, because he finds open space as good as anyone. At times, you can see a little bit of Cole Caufield in him in the way he scores, just at a lower volume and with a bit more size.
Howard has a high ceiling, and you can never have enough scoring. His game away from the puck needs work, but he's someone scouts like and believe in.