UMass Lowell and Head Coach Norm Bazin recently received a commitment from 3.75-star prospect Chase Blackmun, a 6-foot, 185-pound, right-shot defenseman out of Hudson, Wisconsin. In a time of single sport specialization, early commitments and the erosion of high school hockey; Chase goes against nearly every modern hockey movement. He stayed at his local high school for four years, he played three sports and didn’t make a decision about his college hockey future until he was 18 years old and had graduated from high school.
Neutral Zone evaluated Blackmun at the 2016 Select 17 Festival in Buffalo where he showed flashes of the strengths that could make him another great Wisconsin find for the Riverhawks. Lowell benefited immensely in recent years from the services of recently-graduated Wisconsin natives Dylan Zink (Madison) and Michael Kapla (Eau Claire), who combined for 66 points from the blueline last season. Blackmun, a multi-sport athlete who ranked at the top of his class academically, tallied 13 goals and 44 points in 24 games for Hudson High this season, and a total of 35 goals and 73 assists for 108 points over the course of his four-year career.
“A balanced skater with the ability to close gaps and take away time and space from opponents makes Blackmun tough to play against or get around,” said Director of US Scouting Brian Murphy. “He’s also a sure-passer with a firm, actuate delivery. He has a big shot and can score from the point and wins battles consistently in all three zones.” His performance at Hudson High School and with Team Wisconsin led to a second round draft selection by Cedar Rapids in the USHL Draft this spring.
We recently caught up with Blackmun to find out more about his story from high school hockey in Wisconsin to committing to UMass Lowell in Massachusetts.
Tell us a little bit about the early years of your hockey career – how did you get started in the sport and what teams did you play for?
I put my first pair of skates on when I was 5 years old. My older cousin, Drew Blackmun, was my role model and he played hockey so I wanted to be like him. When I was younger I played youth hockey through my city and started to play on summer teams when I was about 11. I also played soccer and baseball which was huge for my development as an athlete.
Who were some of your early hockey influences?
My early influences were definitely my family. I’ve had great support from all my family and having them push me to get better every day was very important. My dad and I have a very special bond and he has supported me through every step of the way. Stephen Yurichuk, Brooks Lockwood and Luke Strand have been three coaches who have pushed me and have greatly helped me become the player I am today.
You have a unique story in that you played four years of hockey for your local high school. Was it hard to avoid pressure to leave and play elsewhere like most Division 1 caliber prospects?
For me, I really loved playing for my school and for my community. Having the opportunity to represent Hudson was a great honor and was something I wasn’t going to give up. Also, playing with my childhood friends was an absolutely amazing experience. When I started high school I had a goal of winning a state championship and I wasn’t willing to leave before I achieved that goal. At times it was tough dealing with pressure to leave but having my family support me was all I needed.
What were some of your best memories or experiences playing for your local high school?
Winning a state championship my senior year is the best moment and best experience I’ve ever had in my life. It’ll forever be something I cherish for the rest of my life.
From your perspective, would you encourage more players to take a similar path?
I think every path for every player is going to be a little bit different. It might be best for some to leave, and might be better for some to stay. My biggest advice is to just focus on yourself and not on what others are doing. Trust the process and believe in yourself.
You led Hudson High School in scoring as a defenseman this past season. How did you balance being an offensive factor while also leading on the defensive side of the puck?
I had the green light to rush the puck and jump up into the play but obviously there’s times when a player should, and times where they shouldn’t. Being able to decide when the right time is, is important to be good offensively but defensively as well. In the end, our team had a lot of great players which equates to a lot of offensive opportunity.
You served as a captain in both hockey and soccer at Hudson. What did those experiences teach you?
Playing more than one sport in high school was very important to me and having the opportunity to be a captain of both teams was an honor. Being able to work on and develop my leadership abilities was very important and will definitely help me on and off the ice as I get older.
You played split-season hockey with Team Wisconsin the past few years. How has playing for them helped with your development as a player?
Playing for Team Wisconsin was huge. The competition was great and the coaching was phenomenal. I was able to learn so much in such a short period of time that greatly impacted my development.
You recently committed to play college hockey at Umass Lowell in Hockey East. What factored into your decision to commit to Lowell?
After touring Lowell I knew it was the place for me. The facilities are top notch, the education is top notch and the coaches are terrific. It’s a great place to develop and a great place to win. In the end I had that gut feeling that Lowell was where I wanted to play hockey and go to school. I first started talking to the coaching staff in the spring. There were other schools but when it comes down to it, you want a be at the best place to develop as a hockey player, a student and as a person. Luckily for me I know I found that place in Lowell.
Umass Lowell has had a great run in recent years in both Hockey East and the NCAA tournament under Coach Bazin. What are you looking forward to most when you arrive at Lowell?
I’m looking forward to joining a great, winning culture. Every year they have multiple guys sign NHL deals so you know they do a great job developing players and when you look at the numbers, they win hockey games. And I love winning. I can’t wait to get after it once I arrive at Lowell.
What are your plans for the upcoming season?
I plan on playing for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the USHL.
What do you think some of your strengths are as a player? Are there any parts of your game that you want to improve upon?
My biggest strengths are my vision and my hockey sense. Being able to make smart plays all around the rink is something I take a lot of pride in. Becoming faster and stronger is always something I can improve on.
Favorite pre-game meal? Pasta or a sandwich
Favorite NHL player? Erik Karlsson
Favorite Wisconsin rivalry game? Hudson vs Superior
Favorite rink to play in? Alliant Energy Center (where we won the State Championship)
Hardest working player you’ve been around? Ty Emberson
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling / Hickling Images