Hockey Snapshot: Luke Kunin
The captain of the gold medal 2017 World Juniors Championship did not score the most goals, achieve the most assists or rack up the most points in the tournament but he did showcase something better than stats, he proved his versatility.
Luke Kunin, a forward from St. Louis, was chosen captain of the victorious U.S. juniors team which went undefeated throughout the tournament.
“It was so humbling and incredible to be chosen as captain” Kunin said. “The locker room was full of great guys and we all just really learned how to work off of each other.”
Although the locker room was full of talented hockey players scoring multiple goals a game and shutting out every competitor, head coach Bob Motzko saw how Kunin embodied a leader on the ice and off.
“Kunin had a great demeanor about him, a great presence and I could tell that other players looked up to him” Motzko said. “He’s a very unselfish player, with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude.”
This attitude is why Motzko saw Kunin as key: he was a versatile, hardworking player.
“Kunin filled any role needed” Motzko said. “If he had to take a defensive role, penalty kill, take on face offs or pick up any slack offensively, he could. We called him our 200 foot player because he can play in all three zones at a high level.”
Kunin’s diversity and leadership can be charted back through his years playing on the U.S. national teams beginning back in 2013. Playing against international teams at a young age did not hinder Kunin’s performance, and that is seen through his stats, scoring for every team he played for.
The success Kunin and the rest of the team achieved did not just come from scoring goals or playing defense, but from their collaboration as a group which was especially seen in the championship game.
“We were down by two goals in that last game” Kunin said. “The winning component was just the heart and character that we had in the locker room. It showed that you have to have that big heart and that’s how we were able to beat canada.”
Now that Kunin has another championship under his belt, he will continue to play and lead the Wisconsin Badgers as Captain before continuing professionally for the Minnesota Wild, the team which he was drafted 15th overall in the 2016 National Hockey League draft.
Motzko believes Kunin will bring the same characteristics to every team he plays for.
“He’s a team first player” Motzko said. “He’s physically strong, he can play center, wing and both special team power plays and penalty kill. He’s just very versatile and there’s a lot of ways coaches can use a player like that.”
Motzko certainly enjoyed winning, but loved the journey that brought them to that championship game. Observing the comradery amongst the players and the growth along the way made it as special of an event as it was. Both Motzko and Kunin agree that no matter where someone is on their hockey journey, they need to enjoy it.
"Try to do something to get better every single day” Kunin said. “Set goals for yourself and try to reach them. That’s how I was taught and still abide by it, but most importantly keep the joy in it and have fun with it.”