Entering last season, Bryan Rust
was one of 12 freshmen hoping to earn playing time on a youthful Notre Dame squad.
With such a young team, many predicted this would be a rebuilding season for the Irish. But Rust and the rest of the first-year players proved otherwise, as they helped lead Notre Dame to its second Frozen Four in team history.
|Rust at the Penguins' 2011 prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. |
“That was huge and also unexpected from everyone outside of our locker room,” Rust, 19, said. “We knew that we could do it from the beginning, but being so young, people maybe didn't give us the chance we deserved. We were led by some great seniors, then some of our younger guys really stepped up big for us.”
What was also special for Rust was that his brother Matt, a senior forward at the University of Michigan, also advanced to the Frozen Four with the Wolverines.
While the brothers didn’t face off against each other in the championship game – as Bryan and the Irish fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals, who topped Matt and the Wolverines in the championship game – their family soaked in the moment as much as they could.
“My parents were pretty excited about it,” Rust laughed. “My mom was trying to wear just navy blue and my dad was trying to wear just navy blue so they could kind of go with both teams.”
The Penguins selected Rust in the third round (80th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after the 6-foot, 191-pound forward had spent the previous two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP).
He's a strong player, a power forward type of guy. I saw him two years ago when he was a 17-year-old. Now I see a guy that’s developed his body well. He’s faster. You can tell that his puck skills have improved over the course of the last two years. ... As far as a human being off the ice, he’s a really high-character kid. He’s got a strong work ethic. He’s got a lot of passion for the game. - WBS head coach John Hynes, on Bryan Rust
Rust’s coach with the USNTDP Under-17 team for the 2008-09 campaign was none other than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who got reacquainted with Rust at last week’s prospect development camp in Pittsburgh.
“On the ice, he’s a strong player – a power forward type of guy,” Hynes said. “I saw him two years ago when he was a 17-year-old. Now I see a guy that’s developed his body well. He’s faster. You can tell that his puck skills have improved over the course of the last two years. He’s just got to continue to develop his body and work on his speed and explosiveness.”
Rust, who scored 19 points (6G-14A) through 40 games as a freshman, described himself as a “hard, two-way player.”
“I’ll play both ends of the ice,” he said. “I’ll sacrifice the body. I can put the puck in the net and make some plays. But I’m not going to sacrifice any defense for offense.”
Last week marked Rust’s first-ever Penguins prospect development camp, as the Novi, Mich., native couldn’t attend last summer because of summer classes.
He’s taken a lot with him back to South Bend, but the most important lesson he learned was how to be a consummate professional.
“The way you handle yourself on and off the ice is so important,” Rust said. “Your character, your persona – it’s so much more important than some people think.”
But according to Hynes, integrity has always been Rust’s strong suit.
|Rust going through a power-skating drill at the Penguins' 2011 prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. |
“As far as a human being off the ice, he’s a really high-character kid,” Hynes remarked. “He’s got a strong work ethic. He’s got a lot of passion for the game.”
This August, Rust is one of 40 skaters invited to attend the 2011 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he’ll see another familiar face in head coach Dan Bylsma – who will be an assistant at the camp.
Rust won a gold medal representing Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships in Belarus last summer, and hopes to get a chance to don the red, white and blue for his country at the World Junior Championships.
“The feeling that you get from winning a gold medal was absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “So to have the chance to make the team and potentially win something else – it’s an unbelievable feeling. I hope I can do it.”
Come fall, Rust hopes to undertake a larger role with the team now that he’s gotten used to the faster, more physical pace of the college game and has learned how to balance hockey with classes.
“I want to step up into a bigger role on the team,” Rust said. “Hopefully play special teams and produce a little bit more offensively, become more of a leader on and off the ice with my work ethic and a little bit vocally.”