Sam Colangelo didn’t score a single goal during his freshman season at Northeastern University. Sure, he only played in eight games, but it was still something that bothered the 21-year-old going into his sophomore season of collegiate hockey.
“My freshman year, a lot of it was out of my control but I definitely didn’t have the year that I wanted,” said Colangelo in a Zoom interview last week. “I only played eight games and I didn’t even score a goal my whole freshman year so there was still a lot that I wanted to prove.”
Colangelo’s Rocky Start to Career at Northeastern
Colangelo also missed most of his freshman season of collegiate hockey because he was away with Team USA at the 2021 World Juniors. He won gold––and even scored a goal on his birthday––along with fellow Anaheim Ducks draft picks Trevor Zegras, Jackson LaCombe and Henry Thrun.
When he returned, not only did he have to catch up on Northeastern’s gameplan and playing style, but the Huskies were also still dealing with the effects of COVID-19. “I got back (from World Juniors) and obviously I was pretty confident in my game,” said Colangelo. “I just came from one of the best tournaments in the world and won a gold medal. Yeah, I didn’t play too much, but I was on an unbelievable team and I got to learn a lot. I came back (to Northeastern) and I’m not really sure what it was with our group my freshman year, I think it’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think a lot of it was outside our control.”
“It was really hard during COVID to come together as a team and be close as a team because we weren’t even allowed to go into each other’s dorm rooms. Everything you had to do was kind of based off of COVID. We weren’t in the same locker room, we weren’t working out together––none of that stuff that helps bring a team together. We weren’t really hanging out outside the rink and without those things, it’s really hard to bring a team together.”
With that knowledge in their back pocket, the Huskies made strong efforts to bond during their spring workouts leading up to this past season. “We wanted to make sure that we could bring our team as close as we could together and I think that was honestly the biggest thing for our team’s success going into this last year which helped raise our game a lot,” said Colangelo. “We all wanted to do it for each other and we were a really close team.”
The Huskies improved their record from 9-9-3 during the 2020-21 season to 25-13-1 this past season. The introduction of goaltender Devon Levi––the Florida Panthers draft pick who missed the 2020-21 season due to a lingering rib injury––also played a deciding factor.
Colangelo scored 12 goals during his sophomore campaign and played a part in Northeastern’s run to the Beanpot final, scoring in the semifinal matchup against Boston College. “I grew up going to every Beanpot my whole life and I’d go to all four of the Boston schools’ games growing up, so to play in the Beanpot was special.” Though the Huskies’ Beanpot run ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Boston University in the final, Colangelo said that it was still a special day for both him and his family.
Colangelo is an East Coast Boy Through and Through
Born and raised about 20 minutes away from Boston in Stoneham, Colangelo spent his entire hockey career up to this point in Massachusetts. Along the way, he’s run into some of the same faces over the years.
He and his roommate, fellow NHL draft pick Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, have been on the same team for five consecutive years dating back to their high school hockey days at Lawrence Academy. When Fontaine moved on to the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League (USHL), Colangelo was still in high school but he made the move to Chicago at the end of his high school hockey season.
It was with the Steel that Colangelo played with some names that will be or are already quite well-known. Along with Fontaine, fellow draft picks Brendan Brisson, Matt Coronato, Mackie Samoskevich and Owen Power were on the team, just to name a few. Power, of course, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and is now playing in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres.
Sean Farrell is another name that Colangelo has crossed paths with repeatedly since their youth days. The two played midget hockey together and were again teammates while playing for the Steel. Now, Farrell is Colangelo’s rival, currently playing for Harvard University with Thrun and another Ducks draft pick, Ian Moore.
Colangelo’s path to Northeastern seemed like a set path from the very beginning. His father’s business partner knew current Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe from a young age and the elder Colangelo came to know Keefe not only through that but through a member of the Colangelo family as well.
“(My cousin) actually toured Brown where Coach Keefe was working at the time and my dad kind of got to know him a little bit,” said Colangelo. “Then when I kind of started to go through that process, (my dad) reached out and Coach Keefe and I have had a really great relationship since the first time we talked.” Colangelo committed to Northeastern as a rising high school sophomore.
This past season was Keefe’s first at the helm after serving as an assistant and associate head coach for 10 seasons. The Huskies also added former Vegas Golden Knights scout Mike Levine and former NHL goaltender Mike Condon to the coaching staff this past season and both have had a significant impact on Colangelo.
“Coach Levine and I have (had) a really close relationship ever since he got added to our staff. He’s obviously been at the highest level and (I’m) pretty sure all of us want to get there someday. (He’s) kind of run us through what guys on (the Golden Knights) would do and things they’d do after practice––little drills and things that they try to put a high priority on. He knows what it takes and (has) scouted at the highest level.”
“With Coach Condon, (it’s) a little different scenario as a goalie coach. He played goalie in the NHL for a while but I think something that’s really interesting is goalies know where the hardest area to make a save is so they can kind of relay that back to us and maybe give us some insights on where they think the other team’s goalie might be a little bit weak or where they think we should shoot a little bit more.”
Striving for Consistency and an Injury-Free Season
With his sophomore season in the books, Colangelo is focused on playing a full season during his junior year next season. After missing games during his first two collegiate seasons due to both international play and a broken elbow, he wants to prove that he’s able of staying healthy while performing at a high level.
“I worked hard while I was hurt to hopefully come back and finally prove to my teammates and the coaching staff that I was still the same player and had gone through a series of unfortunate events over the last year or so. When I came back I was happy with my game and happy with the way the second half went, but I think there’s still a lot more to prove and more to work on and get better at.”
The Ducks’ player development staff is also keeping tabs on Colangelo in order to ensure he’s progressing at the rate that they expect of him. Appearances at games and phone calls to check on progress are the norm, but Colangelo says that they mostly let him be in order for him to focus on his season.
“Ever since (I got drafted) I can’t really describe the way it felt. It was extremely cool, but I had really great conversations with Anaheim leading up to the draft. (It) feels like a long time ago now but I thought that they believed in me and we had great conversations like I said. I was just super happy that that’s a spot I got to go to, it was a dream come true.”
As for his game itself, Colangelo says that there isn’t one specific player in the NHL that he molds his game after. The Sabres’ Alex Tuch along with Josh Anderson of the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk are just three of the players that Colangelo wants his playstyle to be reminiscent of. He’s also a big Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby fan––“big Penguins fan even though I was from Boston”––but doesn’t think it’s fair for anyone to compare their game to the Penguins’ star center “because of how good he is.”
Colangelo’s former head coach with the Chicago Steel, Greg Moore, also likened Colangelo’s game to Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ newly-minted 60-goal scorer. “When I read that, I got a little hate for it from my teammates,” said Colangelo with a laugh. “I love the way he shoots the puck and I think one of the biggest assets of my game is my shot. I study (his) shot a lot. (I’m) going to be honest, he’s my favorite player in the league. Not because I model my game after him, (but) just because I love the way he plays the game, I just love everything about him. (That’s) pretty nice of Coach Moore to say. I’m not sure if I’ll be Auston Matthews but that would be a dream of mine to someday be as good as him.”
Colangelo hasn’t gotten back on the ice since Northeastern’s season ended, but he’s been playing a lot of roller hockey. There’s a good chance he’ll be able to do more of that this summer if he’s able to make the trip to Southern California for the Ducks’ annual development camp. Last season’s development camp was delayed until the fall, which meant that none of the Ducks’ collegiate prospects were able to attend.
In the meantime, Colangelo wants to focus on getting out more, whether that’s going golfing, hitting up one of the nearby beaches, or taking his parents’ new boat out for a spin at Cape Cod to do some fishing.