By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Cooper Zech is a name you might not recognize, and that’s because he is someone who wasn’t drafted by the Boston Bruins. In fact, he was not drafted at all. In March of 2019, the young defenseman signed a two-year AHL contract with the Providence Bruins after finishing his freshman season at Ferris State University. Zech is an undersized puck-moving defenseman from Michigan. The Bruins’ recent history with a player that fits that same mold is pretty good. So, let’s get into what Zech did before coming to Providence, and what the Bruins saw in him.
Cooper Zech spent the 2015-16 season with the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). In 51 games with the Jackalopes Zech netted eight goals while dishing out 17 assists for 25 total points and plus/minus rating of 0. It was not a bad first season in the NAHL where Zech’s offensive ability was really on display. The Michigan native would go on to earn NAHL All-Rookie First Team and NAHL All-South Division Rookie Team honors.
The young defenseman would go on to play the 2016-17 season with the Odessa again, and in 41 games found the back of the net three times and dished out 29 assists for 32 total points and a plus/minus rating of +9. Zech would also play a part of that season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with Muskegon Lumberjacks. In 25 games with the Lumberjacks Zech would dish out four assists for four total points, and plus/minus rating of -6. It was another solid year of development for Cooper.
Zech would go on to play the 2017-18 season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild, and he would have a stellar season. In 58 games with the Wild, the Michigan native would net 11 goals and dish out 58 assists for 69 total points. He would also play in 20 playoff games for Wenatchee netting four goals and dishing out 19 assists for 23 total points en route to leading the Wild to the BCHL Championship. Cooper would also be a BCHL First Team All-Star, he would also lead the league in assists, lead defenseman in assists, lead defenseman in points, and be named the league’s top defenseman. Zech really shined during this season and was able to prove what he could do.
Cooper Zech would spend the 2018-19 season playing in his freshman season at Ferris State University for the Bulldogs. The young defenseman would make his presence felt early and often. In 36 games with the Bulldogs, he would net eight goals and dish out 20 assists for 28 total points and a plus/minus of +3. It would be the first time since 1987-88 a freshman led Ferris State in scoring. The excellent year earned Zech some accolades. He would win the NCAA Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Rookie of the Year and would also be named to the NCAA WCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA WCHA All-Rookie Team.
After his collegiate season ended, Zech had multiple offers from AHL teams. Ultimately he would choose to sign with Providence and was able to get into 12 regular-season games for the AHL club in 2018-19. In those 12 games, he would dish out four assists for four total points while playing very good defense. The Michigan native would also play in the team’s four playoff games netting two goals for two total points. In his short time playing for Providence, Zech looked really good on the ice. He looked comfortable in each zone, and he looked comfortable both with and without the puck. The game didn’t seem too fast for him, which can happen for players coming into the AHL for the first time.
Going into this season, I believe we can expect big things from Cooper Zech. Despite only being 5’9, he plays without fear. He is quick on his feet and can play with or without the puck, though he’s more comfortable with it. Not only do I think he can be a very good hockey player, but the Bruins have also had success signing guys to AHL deals and developing them. Connor Clifton is a good example of that just this past season. Zech’s game is a lot like Torey Krug, and I believe he will be a player to watch this season in Providence. To me, he’s one of their most intriguing players heading into 2019-2020. As we get closer to the start of the season, remember the name, Cooper Zech. You could be hearing it a lot. As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to send them to me on Twitter. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and Go, Bs, Go!