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2022 NHL DRAFT: USA – Isaac Howard, LW, NTDP

After making his mark playing a meaningful role on the U18 USNTDP team as a 17-year-old, there has been a lot of hype surrounding Isaac Howard. Following up on a season where he produced over a point per game (PPG), he has continued to find success on a stacked USNTDP team currently producing a 1.31 PPG. He has proven to be an offensive force this year, using a combination of good puck skills, quick and powerful shots and fast-paced decision making. On top of his offensive skill, Howard is also someone who excels in transition by blending his speed and puck skills, making defencemen guess which area of the ice he is trying to exploit. He possesses a strong skating stride, off of his quick and powerful crossovers and good ankle flexion. In order to elevate his game to succeed at the next level, he should be looking to add muscle. This would allow him to improve his skating from good to great as well help him feel more comfortable battling in the tough areas of the ice. Howard has enough skill, speed, smarts and offensive flare to warrant a team to take a chance on him, with the hopes that he can be a consistent point producer at the NHL level.

Isaac Howard. Photo by Rena Laverty
Isaac Howard Date of Birth: 2004-03-30
Position: LW, Shoots: L H/W: 5'10", 183lbs
Stats to Date: (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) U.S. National U18 Team, (41-23-31-54-24)


When analyzing Howard’s skating stride, his knee is properly extended over his toes, he shows good ankle flexion, and he incorporates crossovers to gain speed and switch angles. One area of concern in his skating is his short extensions in his stride. This limits his power, which allows defenders to close the gap on him when entering the offensive zone. In transition, Howard relies heavily on his skating to help transport the puck from his own end into the opposition’s. When he is in open space in the neutral zone, he uses his edges and crossovers to manipulate angles and keep the defenders guessing which area of the ice he is trying to exploit. After Howard gains entry into the offensive zone, he assesses the defenders positioning and often looks to stop on a dime at the half wall because his stride is not powerful enough to blow by the defender. This helps him evade forecheckers quite often, but if teams start to see the consistency of this play, it may become predictable and easily defendable. This suggests that working on improving his explosiveness could enhance his game. If his strides were more powerful, then it would give him the opportunity to excel more on fast break chances. On the positive side, in the offensive zone, Howard is constantly moving his feet, circling around, trying to find open passing and shooting lanes to put himself in a position to help out his teammates.

This video is a good example of Howard’s full skating stride. As play is being transitioned from his own end into the opposition’s end, he starts off by providing power with crossovers. In his stride his knees are well extended over his feet providing good ankle flexion. Looking at his leg extension on his stride, he could benefit from straightening his leg when extending each stride.

This is a good example of Howard at his top speed. He starts off the play with crossovers to gain speed and momentum, and slows down in the neutral zone to make sure he is on-side. He realizes he is in front of the defender and sprints towards the net, looking for a pass from Nazar. He gets the pass and puts the puck on net, unfortunately in this clip, the goalie made a nice save.

On this play, he uses his speed and stick angles to make the opposition guess which direction he is going to exploit. However, once he enters the offensive zone, he does not have enough power to beat the defender, so he has to pivot and look for an incoming teammate. This was predictable for the Dubuque defender, who puts his stick in the passing lane and stops possession of the puck. Adding the threat of blowing by a defender by improving his explosiveness would provide Howard with more options when transitioning the puck.

Grade: 55


One of Howard’s strongest tools is his shot. He often looks for wrist shots, snap shots and one-timers. The quicker he gets the puck off his stick, the less time goalies have to react. He has the opportunity to be playing with some incredible linemates, including fellow draft eligible forward Frank Nazar. Howard, rather than relying on shooting off of transition plays, is more calculated, often sliding into medium-high danger shooting lanes waiting for line mates like Nazar to feed him. When looking at his shooting form, he could work on his power and elevation of the puck by shifting his weight more over his body when shooting. Howard enjoys utilizing the toe drag to mix up the angle in which his shots are coming from, hoping to catch the goalie off guard before burying it. Taking a look at his shot selection, he is actively attempting to get to the middle of the ice before shooting the puck, however when the angle isn’t provided, he often skates down to the goal line before shooting a low percentage shot on net. If he can work on recognizing when his shot is in a low danger area it could improve his play in the offensive end.

When Howard shoots, he has both feet parallel to each other and toe drags the puck before rifling it over the net. On the next shot, he walks in and drags the puck again before picking the blocker side to try and exploit.

This is an example of Howard’s quick release and power. He starts this play by taking a shot from the point through the traffic in front of the net. After shooting, he hovers to the low slot waiting in an open shooting lane for a one-timer, which he buries.

On this two-on-one, Howard looks off the passing option and winds up for his shot. He attempts to mask the shot by switching the angle of his stick. This caught the goalie off guard but unfortunately the puck went wide. As the rebound goes back to the point, he is circling around the net hoping to gain inside position. The puck is shot from the blueline and Howard is in perfect position to tip it home.

Grade: 60


Evaluating Howard’s skill set is a bit of a challenge. He has tremendous passing ability, being able to make trajectory passes to incoming teammates. He is always scanning the ice looking for open passing lanes to advance the puck. He also exhibits good puck movement ability in combination with his speed, playing with different angles in an attempt to get defenders out of their gaps and open up ice. However, when he gets in tight spaces with the puck, he does not have the proper puck skills to maneuver around defenders consistently, leading to turning over possession. When thinking about his puck skills, there are flashes of great skill, but there are many times where he fumbles the puck trying to overcomplicate a move or force a play. What is very impressive about him is his deception ability, using his eyes and stick, Howard makes the defense think he is going one direction before taking advantage of an open lane in another direction.

This is the same play as the first skating video provided above. The result of this play was a goal by Frank Nazar, assisted by Isaac Howard. He uses his speed to skate through the neutral zone. He gains possession of the puck, slows down and winds up as if he was going to shoot, opening up the passing lane to Nazar. He completes the pass and secures the highlight reel play.

On this possession, Howard joins the transition, gets a pass in the neutral zone and creates a successful zone entry into the offensive zone. As the defense closes in on him, he pivots on the half wall and brings the puck back to the point, before pivoting again and flying down the half wall. He looks up, all of his body language suggests he is about to shoot, then he finds Nazar in the open passing lane, and sends a bullet of a pass to him.

Grade: 55


Without question, Howard has an enormous amount of hockey intelligence, especially in the offensive end. His decision-making ability is fairly quick. Once he receives the puck on his stick he quickly scans the ice for open passing lanes. He also has a knack for circling around the offensive zone looking for passing or shooting lanes that the defense may not be covering. As much as he succeeds, there are times where his quick decisions have led to untimely turnovers. If he can balance his fast paced decision making with stronger awareness of oppositions, then it would go a long way in decreasing turnovers. However, this is not to take away from the numerous times Howard’s quick decisions have led to high-danger scoring chances for teammates. Another area where he can improve on his decision making and positioning is in the defensive end. At times it seems he is more focused on being involved in the play rather than committing to defending his assignment. He has taken the responsibility of the center from the left wing position, luckily he plays with a very smart and skilled center in Frank Nazar such that when he is out of position, Nazar is often covering for him.

On this play, he circles around the offensive zone and the puck is sent back to the point. Howard covers the point for the pinching defenceman. Once he sees the defenceman take a shot on net, he tries to capitalize by bolting towards the net from the blueline. The puck is stopped in the traffic in front and Nazar, seeing Howard pinch from the blueline, sends him a pass, which if it was on his stick, would have been in the back of the net. He then takes the puck around the net and almost scores on the wrap around.

Howard shows some tremendous off-puck play. On the powerplay, even when he is not involved in the puck movement, he is constantly moving to try to get in position to advance the play offensively. Off the faceoff, he circles over to the left side, catches the defender puck watching and slips down low to the slot where he is wide open for a cross-crease chance. After not scoring, he picks up his rebound and sends it to the front of the net.

Grade: 55


This is definitely the area in which Howard is most lacking. Standing at 5’10” 183 Ibs, his small frame harms his ability to engage physically, take hits and battle in the corners. In the defensive end, he prefers to puck watch rather than get involved in battles for the puck. Adding additional muscle to his frame could go a long way for Howard, perhaps allowing him to feel more comfortable and confident to engage in these physical situations. In the offensive end, when he has the puck and can feel the physical pressure approaching, he shies away from getting involved and usually pivots away from the defense looking to offload the puck to an incoming teammate. Taking a look at his compete level, he tends to show more effort in the offensive end than the defensive end. At times, when he is the second or third forward coming back to the defensive end, he uses the time to relax and catch his breath, rather than joining the play to try to turn the puck over and start a transition. Part of the reasoning could be due to his lack of defensive awareness and physicality. If he can improve on his intelligence in the defensive end, it could help his willingness to compete in his own zone and allow him to become a true two-way player.

On this play, he circles to the outside to draw the defender out of the middle, then makes a nice move to cut back inside, before using his speed and puck skills to gain entry of the offensive zone. Once he gains entry he does have a split second where he could rifle the puck on net, but he decides to make an extra move and pays for it with a big check to break up the play.

This play shows lack of effort on the transition by Howard. Nazar was working up the left wall in the neutral zone and Howard was lazily following him. If he accelerated, he would have been involved in the play and could have caused an odd-man rush for his team. He then lacks effort getting back to the defensive end, not skating hard, dragging his feet and watching the play unfold.

Grade: 45

OFP: 55.25