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Thrun wants to be more physical, assertive before 2019 NHL Draft

Defenseman prospect focused on improving game in own end

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Henry Thrun isn't focused on the 2019 NHL Draft. He figures that will take care of itself.

Instead, the 17-year-old is concentrating on what he can control: Becoming a more well-rounded defenseman while playing for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team.

"Right now, I've been working a lot on my physicality, especially in the D-zone," Thrun said. "Just trying to close guys out after the line rush.

"[The draft is] good motivation, but during the season, I'm just trying to focus on what the team is doing and just improving every day. It's kind of far away, but it's a good motivation to have in the future."

Thrun has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 20 games this season. That isn't surprising since he has attempted to model his game after Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.

Unlike Keith, Thrun hasn't yet developed defensively yet.

"He's a good two-way defenseman," Thrun said. "He likes to move the puck, jump up in the play, but he also plays defense first. So I just try to emulate his game a lot."

NTDP U-18 coach John Wroblewski is stressing the importance of being more assertive, not just on the ice, but off it. Thrun is a leader, Wroblewski said, but not the type to let his game do the talking. He would like to see Thrun tweak his approach without overhauling it completely.

"His personality very much fits the realm of how he plays," Wroblewski said. "It's smooth. It's under control. He's a go-getter at the same time. He's a leader, but he's never in your face. I'd like him to get a little more abrasive."

That also applies to Thrun's style of play.

Wroblewski said Thrun (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) is a "typical puck-moving NHL defenseman, and could play in the League for a long time." But if Thrun is to make that a reality, he must become shore up his play in the defensive end.

"It's initiating more," Wroblewski said. "It's initiating on a line rush against in the defensive zone, being tougher to play against in his own end, even asserting himself in the offensive zone. He's a very smart player. His wherewithal to find his teammates and distribute, that part of his game is exceptional. But he could sure some things up in that grit department."

Except for needing more grit, Wroblewski was complimentary of Thrun's disposition and his intelligence. So it's not hard to imagine why Thrun has committed to Harvard University.

Marshall Warren, a 17-year-old defenseman for the NTDP U-18 team, will also attend Harvard.

"Marshall and I have known each other for a while," Thrun said. "Just growing up, playing against each other. We both decided to choose Harvard. We're both pretty excited about it. Now we're just focusing on this season, but we're both excited to be in Cambridge."

Family played a large role in Thrun choosing Harvard. His father, David Thrun, got him into hockey at a young age and was one of several family members who stressed the importance of the sport and academics.

"I love the coaching staff [at Harvard]. I love the facilities," Thrun said. "Then obviously, the school is second-to-none and you can't beat it. ... My family has always valued academics as well as hockey. So I really like the balance they have there and what they're doing."

David played for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and his love of the game was passed to Henry, who decided he wanted to take up hockey after his childhood best friend started playing.

"He got me into the game and I've loved it ever since," Thrun said.

That's led to Thrun appreciating his time playing with other highly rated prospects including forward Jack Hughes, who could go No. 1 in the 2019 draft. Skating with players of Hughes' quality has helped Thrun see what he must improve if he wants to be a mainstay on an NHL roster.

"We have so many talented guys on our team, starting with the goaltenders, the D and the forwards," Thrun said. "It's a lot of fun to play with everyone. It really helps our whole system and program here."

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