His jersey, pants and gloves matched, the shade of green he wore last season as one of the Sioux City Musketeers in the U.S. Hockey League.
But his socks clashed. They had stripes in the same royal blue that represents Minnetonka High School.
An imprecise look for either squad, it was, however, the perfect get-up for Bobby Brink while he swerved around the ice inside the Victoria Recreation Center last week.
The 17-year-old right winger is a projected first-round pick at this year’s NHL draft, which begins Friday in Vancouver and Brink’s decision to split his development between the two teams led him to this recognition among the sport’s next crop of promising prospects.
“I felt like I needed to push myself,” Brink said.
Making it to the NHL has been Brink’s goal since he was 8 years old, but he’d been honing his skills long before that.
He was on the ice at just 19 months and skating by 2. A year later, he was taking in the peewee practices his dad, Andy — who played hockey and golf for the Gophers in the 1990s and now runs Breakaway Academy and Breakaway Hockey — coached.
“From a really young age, he was always at the rink and around the rink and around hockey players,” Andy Brink said, “and he always loved it.”
It was during Brink’s minor-hockey career that his dad started to notice Brink stand out from his peers — the way he’d stickhandle through traffic, see the ice and pass off to his teammates.
When he was a sophomore at Minnetonka, Brink helped the school to its first Class 2A state championship, scoring five times in three tournament games.
“A dream come true,” Brink said.
That wasn’t the end of Brink’s season, though. He soon reported to Sioux City, getting a taste of the USHL, and spent time with the U.S. national under-17 squad.
By the fall, he was back with the Musketeers with the option to leave Iowa in November to resume high school hockey with Minnetonka. But as he racked up goals and assists in October, Brink thought he should probably remain in the USHL.
That was the feedback he was getting from scouts after games, who told him sticking around would make him better. The competition was older, and the style of play mimicked the pro game.
Still, the choice was a tough one because remaining in the USHL meant leaving friends behind at Minnetonka and the camaraderie of a community. But to reach the NHL, this was the direction Brink felt he needed to take his career.
“Halloween he called me up,” Andy Brink recalled, “and he said, ‘Dad, I’m going to stay here.’ ”
What ensued only validated that decision, one Bobby Brink hasn’t regretted.
After scoring 35 goals and leading Sioux City in points with 68 in 43 games, Brink was the USHL Forward of the Year in addition to being named to the league’s first all-star team.
“His ability this year to actually impact the game and on many occasions just take over a game at a very deciding, crucial moment, it happened time and time again,” Sioux City coach Luke Strand said. “That’s where I think he excels. He’s got that ability when everything’s hard and tough, he keeps taking one more step and he makes a difference out there.”
During stints with Team USA, Brink won gold and was awarded MVP at the World Junior A Challenge after scoring the game-winning goal in the final against Russia. He also nabbed bronze at the Under-18 World Championship amid a six-point showing through five games. Now, Brink is ranked 19th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting as a slick puck-handler with an elite hockey IQ; 27 teams interviewed him at the combine.
“He’s playing chess at a checkers speed,” Strand said. “He knows what’s going to happen.”
At 5-8 and 165 pounds, getting stronger and improving his skating are on Brink’s radar. He’ll get to pursue both at the University of Denver in the fall after planning to complete his senior year this summer online, another unique journey that sacrificed a normal high-school experience for Brink.
But Brink has already proved he isn’t afraid to go off script.
And so far, it’s suited him.
“He wants to be a hockey player,” Andy Brink said. “Wherever he has to go or whatever he has to do, he’s willing to do it to play in the NHL.”