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Logan Cooley is about to raise the bar for Western PA hockey players

The Pittsburgh native should be getting drafted really high next month to set a new high point for players from the area

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2022 NHL Scouting Combine - Top Prospects Media Availability Photo by Joshua Bessex/NHLI via Getty Images

After a bit of a lull from producing extremely high-level hockey talent, Western Pennsylvania will be well-represented next month in the 2022 NHL Entry draft when forward Logan Cooley gets his name called early on in the process.

The Penguins (with the 21st pick) are not going to be in a position to get Cooley. As you can tell from the rankings area on his Elite Prospects profile, Cooley is probably the best thing to come out of West Mifflin since bacon cheese fries from the Potato Patch.

It’s been a steady progression up the ranks for Cooley, who dominated starting out locally for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U14 youth program in 2018-19. He then jumped up to the Pens Elite U16 team the following season. From there, Cooley made a serious step up to the United States National Development team in 2020-21, playing mostly for the U17 team for the country. He did pretty well there, but was the ninth leading scorer on the team.

Then, last year, on the USNDP’s U18 team Cooley made another huge step as the talented group’s second-leading scorer (and the best at points per game) to put his draft stock into orbit.

Cooley isn’t the biggest player at 5’10, 174 pounds, but has shown to be a dynamic player with skill to burn. One aspect that stands out time and time again in his highlights is just how smooth and fluid he is. Whether it’s in his skating, or using his hands to curl and drag the puck, Cooley just exudes such a natural feel with the puck on his stick and as he gets around the ice.

Here’s how he described himself to The Athletic:

I’m a complete player, a two-way player, very dynamic, electrifying player. I like to win, too — I’m a winning player, I like to be on successful hockey teams. I like to be with successful teammates too, and help a team win a championship.

Hockey has been a shared passion for the Cooley family. As another article in The Athletic pointed out, older brother Eric played D1 at Niagara and Ohio State (while getting some looks in prospect camps as an invite). Another brother, Riley, played juniors. Logan is the third brother but has tagged along into becoming an elite player in his draft year. A cousin, LJ, is an ‘07 born player who is young but on a star path as well.

The family is known for their close knit bonds and their summer workouts and trainings. It shows in the article above, Cooley is interviewed with other very top prospects Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky and all three are asked who their “biggest inspiration” is. Wright talks about Sidney Crosby and how the Penguins were his favorite team (smart kid, that Shane Wright). Slafkovsky name drops his legendary countryman Marian Hossa. Who does Cooley think of?

It’s kind of my whole family, but more important, my brother Eric. I think we’ve always been pushing each other to be at our best. Watching him having a good chance of playing college hockey when I was real young made me want to do that. Now that this stuff’s kind of coming true, I think that goes to him.

That’s a very grounded and humble response. The other top prospects are talking about inspirations of widely-known heroes, with no personal connection. Cooley’s mind is as family-focused as it gets, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise with how close the tales of that family are.

Logan’s journey will continue at the University of Minnesota next season to make that tie come true. It will also include being a top-5 pick, and maybe even a top-2 or 3 pick next month in the NHL. Cooley is about to set a new level as he pushes the boundaries of Western PA products even further than former first round picks like R.J. Umberger, Brandon Saad and J.T Miller as far as draft position goes.