Future Eagle Karow Soaring in USHL
Michael Karow’s ascent from relatively unknown hockey prospect to Boston College commit and potential 2017 NHL Draft pick has been quick.
The Green Bay, Wis., native never made a USA Hockey National Camp until Select 17s. After being pegged by the Youngstown Phantoms in the seventh round of the USHL Phase II Draft this past summer, his spot in the lineup wasn’t assured until a stellar weekend at the USHL Fall Classic.
That weekend in Cranberry Township, Pa., he was easily the top uncommitted defenseman among blue liners in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Previously an afterthought for NHL scouts, his play garnered attention, and he now sits as the 109th North American Skater for the 2017 NHL Draft per Central Scouting’s final rankings.
“Going into this year, if you had told me I’d be in this spot, I’d have said you’re [kidding] me,” said Karow.
The stellar start to the USHL season also caught the eye of several college coaches in attendance. He went on visits to Ohio State, Nebraska-Omaha and Massachusetts-Lowell before ultimately choosing to play at Boston College.
“It was good to see a variety, to see both sides of all of it and compare my options. I tried to weigh which program was best for me,” Karow said.
Playing at a school such as BC with NHL pedigree and excellent academics was just too hard to pass up for Karow.
“It was the best opportunity. The coaching staff just made me comfortable. They were welcoming. The history of the program and the school’s academics were what I wanted. My parents have always instilled the importance of academics,” said the USHL Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Karow has done his best to keep all the attention from scouts on the backburner. He’s been the Phantoms’ number-one shutdown defender as the team earned a bid in the USHL Clark Cup Playoffs.
“I try not to worry about it. I try to play my own game. Hopefully my name gets called. Even if you do get drafted, you still have to keep improving. It doesn’t mean anything,” Karow said.
Karow, whose family had season tickets to Wisconsin home games growing up, said he tries to model his game after a current NHL player with Badger roots.
“I like watching Ryan McDonough on New York. He played at Wisconsin. It’s been fun following his path up through the pros,” said Karow, who joked that his parents might not keep the season tickets with him at BC.
While Karow had four goals and 17 assists in 58 games as a USHL rookie, his biggest strengths lie in the defensive zone.
“I’ve taken on more of a defensive role this year against the other team’s top line. My game has become more about shutting other teams down and moving pucks north,” Karow said.
Karow isn’t a flashy player, but he’s steady and he can skate with just about any opposing forward.
“My size and skating ability,” said Karow of his best attributes on the ice. “I work on my skating a lot. I try to use my size and reach to have a good stick.”
He credits Youngstown assistant coach and former Colgate star Jeff Potter on teaching him some of the ins and outs of the game defensively.
“The coaching staff has given me the right situations to succeed. The defensive assistant has helped me with stick positioning. They want my stick in the right place and they’ve worked with me on positioning and small details,” said Karow.
Competing in the USHL on a nightly basis is a challenging endeavor as almost every player will be moving on to college hockey.
“The speed and consistency,” said Karow on the biggest difference from high school hockey in Wisconsin. “You can’t get away with a bad game out here.”
Interestingly enough, Karow was quick to heap praise on a future college rival when asked who the hardest forward to play against was this past season.
“[Boston University recruit] Shane Bowers,” said Karow. “He combines his size and skill level. He uses his body positioning to protect the puck. He’s the best forward we’ve played against.”
Karow is the first person in his family to play hockey competitively. His father played football so the learning curve has been one for the whole family. However, like any kid growing up playing hockey, the family has had to sacrifice a lot. He says his family support structure has been a big boost in his first year living away from home.
“They’ve just given me really good life lessons. Giving me the right freedoms to have maturity to succeed living away from home,” said Karow, who is playing about 10 hours from home this season.
The trips out east will be even longer, but Karow knows his family will be there, as he becomes an Eagle.
“My family has supported me throughout the whole thing. My dad has driven me all over the place,” said Karow.