Lightning Draft Isaac Howard 31st Overall

With the 31st pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning have selected Isaac Howard from US National Team Development Program (USNTDP)

About Isaac Howard

In many ways, Issac Howard is a poster child of the modern-day NHL developmental program. While size will always draw more attention, highly-skilled yet undersized forwards have been cutting their way across the league, and Howard could be the next player to take up this mantle.

While he is only 5-foot-10, Howard is gifted with the puck, as he has both a dangerous shot and incredible playmaking ability. Throughout the 2021-22 season, he played 27 games in the USNTDP Juniors, posting 11 goals and 37 points, whereas in 60 games played with the US National U18 team, he scored 33 goals and 82 points.

Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Live Tracker

Also, despite being smaller, Howard knows how to play gritty when needed, as he will fight along the boards to win a puck battle. He is also developing strong defensive instincts, meaning he is learning to put himself in the right spot to block passes or break up shot attempts.

So, while he may have been overlooked in a different era, Howard is everything you want from a first-round prospect. Sure, if he were a little bit bigger he may be considered even more viable in the NHL, but given his motor and hockey instincts, he should be an easy selection on draft day.

THW Prospect Profile Excerpt

“Isaac Howard is an offensively gifted forward, a natural scorer who is developing into an excellent playmaker as well. He scored 54 goals in 91 games spread over two seasons with United States National Team Development Program Juniors, but his 71 assists have earned him a reputation for being a versatile player who can both score and set up plays. Howard has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2022-23 season.

Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide

“Howard has the luxury of being born in an era when size is less important than it was a decade ago. Despite his 5-foot-10 stature, he plays a big man’s game, never shying away from the gritty and dirty areas. He has a nose for the net and, with his speed and wrist shot, knows where to put the puck.

“While early reports have showcased his ability to score goals, Howard has developed his all-around game to become a more complete player. He has an uncanny ability to find teammates in high-danger areas and delivers quick and precise passes that find them more often than not. Combined with the USDP and USHL this season, Howard has amassed 45 assists in 57 games, highlighting how versatile and threatening he can be when the puck is on his stick.

Isaac Howard USNTDP
Isaac Howard of the U.S. Hockey National Team Development Program. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“The defensive side of his game is nothing to scoff at either. Positionally, Howard often positions himself to take away the passing lane while also leaving himself open for a breakout attempt. He’s active with his stick and can identify and read plays with quick and decisive thinking. Howard tends to look for players higher up the defensive zone when attempting to start a rush play, and his transition in the neutral zone leads him to look for open areas to receive a pass upon entry into the offensive zone.”

Full player profile can be found here

How This Affects the Lightning’s Plans

The good thing for the Lightning is that Howard already has his near future set. As a commit to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2022-23 season, he will have up to four years to refine his game at one of the top hockey universities in the United States.

However, given his potential, it’s very likely that after two to three seasons Howard will be looking to make the jump to professional hockey. This means he can take on top-six playing time in the American Hockey League or play in a limited bottom-six scoring role with Tampa Bay.

So, to put it simply, Howard is a quintessential Lightning draft pick. He may be smaller, but he has the skill and grit to tear up the league with Tampa Bay in the coming future.