Bostrom’s game making him tough to overlook

Chris Lempesis

Coming into the season, it would have been easy to overlook Justin Bostrom.

For one thing, Bostrom is 5 feet, 9 inches tall, making him one of the shortest members on Minnesota’s men’s hockey team.

But more relevant than his height, as a member of a freshman class that included considerably hyped players such as Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Ryan Stoa, Bostrom was not a player many were talking about before the season began.

Now, 24 games into the season, Bostrom is forcing opponents to take notice.

Bostrom is fifth on the team in goals scored with seven. His 12 points also put him second on the team in freshman scoring, behind only Kessel.

Bostrom said that flying under the radar when compared to the other newcomers has been to his benefit so far because there’s been little pressure on him. It’s also provided him with a bit more motivation, he said.

“You got three guys (Kessel, Wheeler and Stoa) coming in who earned everything they’ve gotten,” Bostrom said. “They’re obviously good hockey players. But at the same time, you tell yourself that you can help the team out too.”

And while he’s certainly been able to help the team out, especially in even strength situations (where he’s scored all of his goals), even Bostrom had to admit he’s been surprised by the numbers he’s put up.

“I think I’ve gotten my share of bounces here ” offensively ” a little,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten some goals that goalies might save and whatnot. So I’m just kind of lucky finding the net right now.”

According to teammates and coaches, however, luck may have little to do with Bostrom’s success. Both coach Don Lucia and sophomore forward Evan Kaufmann, a frequent linemate of Bostrom’s, credited the freshman for being a hard worker.

Bostrom said his limited size ” listed at 173 pounds, he’s also one of the lightest members on the team ” puts him in a spot where he can’t afford to slack off.

“You’re not gifted with a bigger body to kind of work around in the corners,” he said. “You kind of got to move a little more and just keep moving your feet to try to stay loose.”

But Bostrom isn’t getting by on effort alone.

“You also find him playing a pretty good skill game, too,” Kaufmann said. “He gets into the scoring areas, he’s got a really great shot and when people give him the puck in a position to score, he usually ends up putting it in the net.”

Bostrom has been doing more of this over the past month and a half for Minnesota, lighting the lamp five times since the beginning of December.

Things have gotten markedly better for him since the start of the season when he was definitely lacking confidence, Lucia said.

“I think early on that he was tentative and we tried to give him confidence that “Justin, you’re a good player,’ ” Lucia said. “We didn’t think he was playing up to his abilities the first month or so of the season because he was so tentative.”

Bostrom’s confidence is now coming through, though, and Lucia said he feels he’s going to be “an outstanding college player.”

Lucia later added: “He’s everything you want in a college hockey player.”

Praise like this will make it hard for Bostrom to be inconspicuous for much longer. And if Bostrom can live up to his own expectations, it might be nearly impossible.

“I had goals coming into the beginning of the year,” Bostrom said. “And I haven’t met those yet.”