On many appearances Luke Krys had a normal childhood. He grew up in Ridgefield, CT with his older brother Chad and younger sister Aerin. They were always active, playing sports and attending each other’s events, whether it was hockey, lacrosse, field hockey or dance and their parents often served as coaches. His father, Mark, is an Ontario native who played four years of college hockey at Boston University and went on to have a nine-year professional career in the AHL, IHL, ECHL and Europe.
“My brother and I have greatly benefited in hockey from having my dad by our side throughout our youth hockey career,” said Luke. “His knowledge of the game and making sure we worked our hardest every time we played were key to our development. One thing he has always told us, whether it was hockey or anything else, was to give it your all or it’s not worth putting all of your time into.”
While Chad was two years older than Luke, the two brothers would play every chance they got. However, once Chad grew to be thirteen and fourteen and started participating in competitive hockey, it wasn’t long before scouts and coaches began swarming. Alex was a sensational talent and clearly one of the best players in his age group in the New England region and the entire country. At 14 he was playing U18 hockey for the CT Oilers and putting up over a point per game as a defenseman. The next season he played for Bob Thornton’s U19 NJ Rockets as a 15-year-old (along with NHL Draft picks Patrick Harper and Cam Dineen) and averaged over a point per game there as well. He committed to Notre Dame when early commitments were much less frequent and accepted a spot on the National Program. Over the next two years his game would only improve as he played at the highest levels against college teams and in international events. He switched his commitment to Boston University and was drafted in the Second Round of the NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks this summer as the 45th overall selection.
While Chad’s story is of rapid growth and development, his brother, Luke’s path has been grittier.
“Growing up and to this day, watching Chad play seemed very simple, with his smooth skating and quick hands. Although I knew he had worked hard at everything he did, it didn’t seem to come that naturally for me. I was never a good skater or a great offensive defenseman. So I had to work on skating and stickhandling that much more. For Chad, success seemed to have rightfully come to him since he was a Peewee and for me, while I wasn’t at the back of the pack, I never stood out.”
We asked Luke if he ever started doubting himself as he went up through Bantams and midgets where he didn’t have the same kind of success or attention as Chad had at that age.
“No I don’t think I ever doubted myself, because I knew I wasn’t as strong as the kids on my team and that I would eventually grow. I think the influence from both my Mom and Dad always saying ‘you’re a different player just give it time’ also helped a lot. I always knew I was a smart player; I just never knew the timeline for when I was going to develop physically.”
Luke has recently grown in size and strength. “Only recently have I grown and put on some weight. Over my hockey career, I have had to work a lot on my stride and it’s finally starting to show. While my process was much slower and maybe less exciting, I’ve found a way to keep going because I know I’m a late developer. Although we have taken different paths, and play totally different styles, I think we can end up at the same destination.”
Chad is a smooth, offensive minded defenseman who moves the puck and can run a power play as well as any defenseman in the country for his age (although Adam Fox might have something to say about that). Luke, on the other hand, plays a reliable, defensive minded game where he takes the body and cuts down time and space from his opponents. Where Chad has offensive instincts and imagination with the puck; Luke has keen defensive awareness and body positioning.
Why the difference? “I think we have different styles because, as a late developer, I was not as strong of a skater, so I had to really learn how to defend. I have always been more physical than he was. He, on the other hand, could skate so well that he’d carry it end to end and really developed a strong offensive game,” reflected Luke. “To be honest I think our game will be very similar in a few years as we are both working on becoming more well-rounded players.”
While Luke has not been selected for the same team’s as Chad, he was more proud and supportive than jealous and bitter. “Following Chad’s success was motivating for me, to see all of these different opportunities you can have through hockey. All of the tournaments he has gone to makes me realize how special hockey is and how far you can go with it.”
While boys will be boys and brothers will be brothers, these two share a bond that reaches far beyond the walls of the rink. As Luke puts it, “we have a great relationship. We obviously compete with each other on certain things, but we always cheer each other on, and support each other through it all. He also always gives me pointers on different things that can improve my game.”
It was a few weeks ago on a hot July day that our scouts walked into the rink for yet another Select 16 National Development Camp and we saw Luke on the roster. We were impressed and a bit surprised, as were some of the other scouts in attendance, who refer to him as “Chad’s younger brother.” However, it didn’t take long to realize this was not the Luke Krys of old. “He looked like a giant compared to the kid I saw a year ago. He could skate, he was skating with the puck and delivering tape to tape passes in stride,” explained Director of Scouting Brendan Collins. “He was without question one of the top 20 defenseman in the camp.”
Krys’ improvement was not only noticed by Neutral Zone scouts but by several college and junior teams in attendance as well; colleges who had never reached out before and USHL teams who passed over him in the draft. At this age, Chad was already committed D1 and embarking on his first season with the US National Team. Luke, on the other hand, went into the National Development Camp uncommitted and recently passed over in the USHL Draft. “I was definitely disappointed on not being drafted in the USHL. Seeing those kids who did get drafted, I knew I was not that far behind any of them. Even though you should never compare yourself to others, I think seeing people who did get drafted, gave me even more confidence to keep on the path that I am on.”
Luke already has his eyes set on next season as he will play for the Westchester Express U16 team. He will spend the rest of the summer training and working on his stride to be prepared once the season begins. He hopes to be a leader on his team and prove himself to the USHL and college scouts so that he’ll have more options going forward.
“My main goal is to play college hockey. While different schools have reached out to me, one thing I have learned from my brother is to take your time, find the right fit and let yourself develop as a hockey player and a student.”
For Luke, as has always been the case, he’ll have to wait longer and potentially work harder, but in the end, he too will get a phone call with an offer on the end of the line. His story is not just one of a younger brother playing in an older brother’s shadow; but one of a late developer, who continues to stay positive and work hard toward his goal of playing college hockey.
You won’t see Luke’s name on our Top 200 List for the USHL Draft, nor will you see his name in our March National Rankings. The boy who was once “Chad’s younger brother,” is now “Luke Krys”, one of the top 100 players in the country for his age.