By Jim den Hollander / USPHLNCDC.com
Using the past two seasons as examples of how much he can achieve in a season, the future is looking bright for Caden Cranston (‘04/Rochester, N.Y.).
After making the jump from the 16U AAA level hockey to junior with the Buffalo Stampede in the USPHL Premier League last season, Cranston pushed the bar higher, and capped off an amazing first season in the USPHL NCDC Tier 2 League as the league’s leading scorer and now, Rookie of the Year.
Looking back on his season in Buffalo, Cranston adapted quickly to the faster pace with bigger players, appearing in all 44 regular season contests with the 2021-22 Stampede and notching 19 goals on his way to a 63-point campaign.
This season, the young center earned a spot on the Rockets Hockey Club NCDC squad. Again, if there was an adjustment, he made it look easy.
“The great coaching staff (Jared and Rem) and group of leaders made the adjustment from Premier to Tier 2 pretty smooth,” said Cranston in an e-mail interview. “Barron Woodring, Jonah Copre, Cam Bergeman and Cade Baker all played a big part in helping our young team feel comfortable as a group from the start.
“I think the biggest difference going from Tier 3 to Tier 2 was the speed of the game, but after a few games, you start to settle in,” said Cranston, adding a pair of Wisconsin skaters helped finish the process later in the season. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have consistent people I was playing with but in November, Kyle Rohrer (‘05/Oregon, Wis.) and Adam Timm (‘05/Chetek, Wis.) joined our team from Team Wisconsin. I started playing with those guys – who are two of the top ‘05’s in the country – and they are the best linemates I could have asked for.”
To say he became comfortable in the new league is an understatement. Cranston scored 18 goals and set up another 58 topping the league’s point race with a 10-point margin. He was a model of consistency, collecting at least a point in 44 of 50 regular season games including all of the final 19 contests. But Cranston said he didn’t pay a lot of attention to those numbers as success was measured in a different way.
“The Rockets do a great job emphasizing the importance of the mental game and how points are out of your control,” said Cranston. “I never put too much pressure on myself to put up points. We also had a great powerplay group consisting of myself, Barron Woodring, Jonah Copre, Cade Baker and Cam Bergeman so they all helped me in terms of power play success.”
As for goals entering the season, Cranston said he reached his primary goal when he suited up in the season opener.
“Prior to the season, I was tendered by Jason Kersner of the Rockets, so I was just hoping to make the team,” said Cranston.
Rockets fans became familiar with the Cranston name over the past season and while Caden will be moving on to his next challenge at NCAA Division I Bentley University, the name will remain as his younger brother Jace was also tendered by the Rockets. His expertise is as a blueliner though.
“I’m proud of Jace,” said Caden. “He put in a lot of work this season with the Skipjacks 18U team out of York, Penn. And then finished the season with us. Jace is a great all-around defenseman who is a stud defensively and is also not afraid to jump in the play to create offense off the rush.
Congratulations to Caden Cranston, USPHL NCDC 2022-23 Rookie of the Year.
2018-19 Aidan Curran, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
2019-20 Cy LeClerc, Islanders Hockey Club
2020-21 Johnny Wescoe, Rockets Hockey Club
2021-22 Evan Brown, Rockets Hockey Club