In Developing Story, a regular feature on collegehockeyinc.com, we highlight current college hockey players who have developed their skills during their careers – either on the ice or off – and in turn made a bigger impact on their team’s success.
Notre Dame junior Bryan Rust, like many of his teammates, struggled at times last season, and he finished the year with 11 points and his team outside the NCAA Tournament field.
That frustration gave way to a new attitude and an intense off-season training regimen. He’s been rewarded, as his four points this weekend for the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish gave him 12 already this year.
Rebounding from last year
“[Bryan] and I butted heads last year,” head coach Jeff Jackson said at the season-opening Ice Breaker Tournament, which Notre Dame won. “I didn’t think he competed all the time, but I’m seeing a lot more from him this year.
“I’m excited about Bryan Rust right now. I like his energy, I think his skating has improved.”
Rust agreed with every word of his coach’s assessment, and didn’t point fingers when it came to his subpar sophomore season. Instead he credited the coaches and facilities at Notre Dame for helping him make strides this summer.
“Tony Rolinski, our strength coach, helps tremendously. He showed me some things this offseason that really helped,” he said. “Our entire staff is all about trying to develop you as a player and a person, and Notre Dame’s facilities are top notch. If there’s an area of your game you need to work on, you can do it.”
Improvement is evident
Rust’s improvement in the first two months of the season has been evident. He leads the Irish at +12 and his 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) trail only Anders Lee’s 15. He has two three-point efforts, most recently Saturday against Lake Superior State.
“Bryan might be among the most underrated offensive players in the NCAA,” said Dave Starman, CBS Sports Network analyst. “He has hands, hockey sense, can score, and can beat a defenseman one-on-one. I’m seeing an improvement in his skating, which has led to him being a more consistent offensive threat.”
Rust comes from a college hockey family, as his brother, Matt, played four years at Michigan and a year of pro hockey. Matt – who is now back at school in Ann Arbor – has given Bryan a training partner and an objective assessment of how he can improve.
A third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rust has taken all that’s available to him – family support, Notre Dame coaching and the facilities at school – and made himself an even more viable prospect.