Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Alex Vlasic is looking to make a name for himself in the NHL someday.
Actually, he's hoping to add another Vlasic to the NHL at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Vlasic, a left-shot defenseman who is No. 25 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 draft, is the cousin of San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Not a bad namesake to have for a defenseman.
"It's really cool to have someone that close have so much success with hockey and be in the NHL," said Alex, whose older sister, Emma Vlasic, is a senior forward and captain at Yale University. "I try to model my game after him the best I can. He works so hard in the offseason and stuff, so if I can do what he does I might be successful too."
In two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, Alex has grown from a gangly, less confident player with limited offensive skills into a 6-foot-6, 193-pound presence on the back end. His 24 points (four goals, 20 assists) in 47 games are tied for fourth among defenseman on the NTDP Under-18 team.
He credits his teammates for helping him become the player is, including daily tests against other top-end 2019 draft prospects, including forwards Jack Hughes, the projected No. 1 pick, and Matthew Boldy, No. 6 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking.
"It's pretty amazing to play with so many talented and high-end players," Alex said. "We all help each other grow and force one another to be better players. In practice, when I'm against guys like Hughes or Boldy, or anyone up and down our lineup, it forces me to play smart. That and the fact that we go up against some of the best competition in the world during the season, you can't help but get better.
"I think it's really good preparation for the NHL where you know night in and night out you are always playing with and against the best in the game."
Vlasic, who will attend Boston University in the fall, has focused this season on adding muscle to handle more physically developed NCAA players, and growing his offensive game.
"Playing against college teams beginning at 17 (with the NTDP Under-17) team, you realize how big those guys are," Alex said. "It provides a good experience before you actually get into those ranks.
"For me … this season I knew I had to work on my strength and my offense. I definitely still want to include some more offense in my game. I think I have a lot of offensive potential so I just need to try and work on that a little bit.
"I'm just trying to go out there and play my best and compete with these other guys. If I have success, that's a bonus."
Besides his cousin, Vlasic tries to pattern his game after defensemen Aaron Ekblad (6-4, 220) of the Florida Panthers and Colton Parayko (6-6, 230) of the St. Louis Blues. Each of them has a similar build to Vlasic and has produced offensively in the NHL.
Vlasic had 29 points in 69 games last season with the NTDP U-17 team, so his production has risen this season. And he's averaging 1.04 shots on goal per game this season, up from 0.84 (58 shots on goal) last season.
"I think becoming a more offensive player can always be a challenge," Marc-Edouard said. "But I think it's also something that you can really easily work at. And from what I understand Alex has the work ethic to get there. … It'll come."
Alex appreciates the support he gets from his cousin and hopes he can do the name justice after it's called in June.
"Vlasic and defense go together," Marc-Edouard said. "I'm definitely excited for him to continue to grow his game and see where he can take it."