Sep. 23—There were exactly 68 boys, all 14 years old, invited to the "prestigious" Top 68 Bantam Major Hockey Camp, a k a "CCM 68," in Chicago last month.
Only five were from Massachusetts, three from the same Bantam Major team.
One of them was Brady Sloper, a freshman at North Andover High.
And Sloper came home with some hardware, as a first-teamer on the All-Combine team, which measures athleticism and hockey skills.
The five-day invite-only camp, which draws pro and college scouts, as well as prep schools, is apparently the cream of the crop for young, growing American hockey players.
"It was amazing," said the 6-foot, 170-pound Sloper, who is noted for his two-way abilities as a defenseman. "The talent was incredible. The speed was something I hadn't seen. It was a great way to measure myself."
Hockey is sort of in Sloper's blood. His dad, Todd, a Billerica native, starred at Assumption College, ranking 11th all-time in points (102 games, 60 goals, 83 assists, 143 points), graduating in 1996.
Dad built an outdoor rink behind their home when Brady was learning to skate.
The rest is history.
"I love everything about the sport, but I mostly love the speed," said Sloper, who is also a noted lacrosse player as midfielder and faceoff man. "I like the quickness, the fast decisions. It's always been my favorite sport."
Brady says there is one NHL player in particular, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who gets a lot of his attention.
"I not only like the way he plays defense," said Brady, "but he's super offensive, super-skilled. I want to be like him."
Brady's coach the last five years in private hockey, Boxford's Glen Thornborough, whose son Spencer also played at the "CCM 68" along with Gavin Weeks from Exeter, N.H., says Brady's thirst to get better has been key to his meteoric rise.
And it hasn't hurt that his last team, the Valley Warriors, were ranked in the top 10 in the country as Bantams.
"Brady is a very good defender, but also very good on offense, too. He's a very good skater. He's physical. He has a strong shot. and now he's growing. He's only going to get better," said Coach Thornborough.
"The one thing you notice about him is he never takes a shift off."
After getting home from Chicago, Brady wasted no time trying to improve parts of his game going forward.
"I want to get a little quicker," said Brady. "That's one of my goals as I play and see better competition."
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.