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BU freshman Bobo Carpenter welcomes adversity in pursuit of hockey stardom

The son of the "Can't-Miss Kid" is ready to prove the doubters wrong in his first season with the Terriers.

After a successful season in the USHL, Bobo Carpenter is ready for his freshman season at BU.
After a successful season in the USHL, Bobo Carpenter is ready for his freshman season at BU.
Rich Gagnon/BU Athletics

On a day when budding hockey players can grasp validation for their careers, Bobo Carpenter slowly felt his own dream slip through his fingers.

As each round of the 2014 NHL Draft yielded no results, the 17-year-old Carpenter sunk deeper and deeper into his seat, powerless to change the circumstances transpiring in front of him.

There was no writing on the wall for Bobo. With his name marked on multiple pre-draft lists, the Austin Prep product felt confident in his future — so much so that he and his family made the 330-mile trek down to Philadelphia to hear his name ring out over the speakers at the Wells Fargo Center.

His sought-after goal ultimately fell upon deaf ears.

"We sat through the whole thing, the two days," said Bobo's sister, Alex. "It was tough, even for me, even though I wasn't the one being drafted."

Leaving Philadelphia with no NHL entry-level deal in tow served as a punch to the gut for Bobo, but all was not lost. After all, there was always next year.

Once again, the prospects were there for Bobo at the outset of the 2015 NHL Draft. And once again, the eager forward received word that he had been passed over.

"It's always tough," he acknowledged. "That's kind of your dream to be standing up on that stage when you're younger."

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Bobo Carpenter is certainly no stranger to roadblocks in his career.

His father, Bobby, is quick to point out that his eldest son has almost always been an undersized presence out on the ice. Even during his early years at Mite, it was not smooth sailing for the North Reading, Mass. native — it took him over a year and a half to notch his first career goal.

And yet, while Bobo never truly separated himself from the competition on a physical level, he never needed to rely on his size or strength to leave his mark on the score sheet.

For Bobby, his son's greatest strength does not lie in tangible traits such as his wrist shot or his skating ability.

Rather, it's always been an omnipresent drive to steamroll through adversity.

Even at his lowest point, Carpenter found opportunity in wake of the previous two drafts. A setback? Yes. But there is little that has truly hampered the Boston University freshman in his relentless pursuit of hockey stardom.

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Over the years, Bobo's home and his hometown rink were often interchangeable when it came to spurring his development.

When winter finally arrived at the Carpenter household, Bobo and his family often laced up their skates and took to their rink out in the backyard.

Often times, these bouts of shinny hockey were solely a family affair — played between Bobo, Alex, his younger brother, Brendan, and their parents. It was often an ordeal when it came to determining teams, Alex recalled. All three Carpenter siblings often sparred for the spot as their father's teammate.

Could you blame them?

Over 30 years before BU freshman phenom Jack Eichel dominated headlines as the next great thing in American hockey, Bobby Carpenter established himself as the original "Can't-Miss Kid." Appearing on the front cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17-year-old in 1981, Bobby served as a trailblazer for U.S. Hockey, becoming the first American to be taken in the first round of a NHL Draft.

Five teams, one Stanley Cup and 728 career points later, Carpenter retired, but continued to serve as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, winning two more championships in 2000 and 2003.

It should come as no surprise that Bobo lists his father as one of his biggest inspirations, but Alex is not too far behind.

Just a few stops on the Green Line from Bobo's new home on Commonwealth Avenue, the oldest Carpenter sibling has forged an impressive legacy for herself.

A senior at Boston College and U.S. Olympian, Alex has established herself as one of the premier players in women's hockey, winning the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for collegiate player of the year after leading the nation with 81 points in just 37 games with the Eagles.

Bobo and his sister Alex picked up the game of hockey from a very young age. Photo Credit: Carpenter Family

Despite all that his sister has accomplished under the bright lights of Conte Forum and the Sochi games, Bobo's most cherished memories of Alex lies in their pickup games in the backyard.

"[We] always did some drills together and pushed each other," Bobo said. "We always had little competitions, like playing HORSE, hitting the post. It was always a fun time."

Few stakes were involved in their sessions of pick-up puck, but Alex quickly began to take note of her brother's work ethic and tenacity.

Soon enough, other coaches and scouts caught on as well.

"You throw a puck in a corner, he's going to do everything he can to come out with it," said BU head coach David Quinn. "When you add that type of will and determination with his skillset, you've got a pretty special player."

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As he matured, Bobo overcame his pedestrian 5-foot-11 profile thanks to his cerebral style of play and his reputation as a sniper in the slot — honed over hours of practice in an impromptu shooting range that his dad developed in their driveway.

Armed with a growing sense of confidence, Bobo quickly began to dominate the Massachusetts high school circuit, potting 40 goals in 46 games with Austin Prep. In the waning weeks of his sophomore year, Bobo announced his commitment to BU — standing as the second recruiting coup for David Quinn and the new coaching regime at Agganis Arena.

Other top-tier programs, including Providence College, UNH and Boston College were all reportedly interested in Carpenter, but he opted for the scarlet and white after touring the campus. For Bobo, BU's facilities and atmosphere gave him "the best chance to reach [his] dream."

Even when everything appeared to be moving in the right direction, Bobo took solace in the guidance provided by his family.

Earning the right to play for a premier NCAA program is a lofty achievement in itself — one that Bobo admits wouldn't be possible without his parents sacrificing their time in order to fit in the countless number of out-of-state tournaments and early-morning scrimmages.

Their support would be more valuable than ever in the coming years.

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Bobo isn't used to searching for answers. He's interested in delivering results. But after going undrafted in 2014, he had few options other than turning to the ones closest to him, namely his father.

Bobby Carpenter was spared of the same scenario that beset Bobo — drafted third overall by the Washington Capitals in the ‘81 draft — but harped on the reality that a name etched on a draft board does not constitute a free ride to the NHL.

"[Bobo] always hears me tell the story, that there are plenty of guys that never get drafted that go on to have great NHL careers," Bobby said. "There are so many first round draft picks that never make it."

"The big difference between the two is how much you want it."

Lifted by his father's words and carrying a chip on his shoulder, Bobo sought to prove the doubters wrong. His first chance at orchestrating a bounce-back campaign would be in the United States Hockey League (USHL).

In his first full season with the Sioux City Musketeers, Carpenter shrugged off any semblance of post-draft blues— tying for the league lead with 35 goals while finishing seventh in total points at 63.

With every shot that lit the lamp, Bobo further established himself as a legitimate pro prospect, regardless of his draft label.

Steve Greeley, current assistant director of player personnel with the New York Rangers and former associate head coach at BU, is no stranger to identifying undrafted talent.

With Bobo, he sees the same potential that resided in two former Terriers that inked NHL deals this past spring.

"Any player that's going to play college hockey has always been a great player in his own right," he said. "I think a perfect example is either Evan Rodrigues or Matt O'Connor. Both went undrafted and became great players pretty quickly at BU.

"The draft doesn't mean much. [Bobo] wants to be the best player he can as his career ends at BU, not as it begins."

So far, Bobo has gotten off to a pretty good start.

Bobo tied for the USHL lead with 35 goals last season with the Sioux City Musketeers.

Bobo tied for the USHL lead with 35 goals last season with the Sioux City Musketeers. Photo Credit: Rob Franck/Sporting Images

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Skating with his new Terrier teammates in Saturday's exhibition victory over Acadia University, Bobo looked right at home on BU's third line, dishing a helper on a goal from classmate Shane Switzer en route to the 4-2 victory.

As more and more fans become acquainted to another "Carpenter" out on the ice, it can be easy to get lost in the mythos surrounding the name on the back of Bobo's sweater.

Bobo knows full well of the legacy that he bears, but he doesn't view it as much of a burden. At this point, he has little time for factors that lie out of his hands.

"I don't think there's any pressure at all," his father states. "I think it's all his desire and his want. He's not going to work out two extra times or go on the ice early just to compete with Alex or compete with what I did."

"He wants to go as far as he can and he does it for himself. Not for us, not for anybody else. That's what's going to make him successful."

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What has been the fondest memory of Bobo's career so far?

Bobo hesitates at the question. He pauses.

"Hmm, that's a tough one," he concedes.

A life dedicated to hockey has dealt Bobo a fair share of triumphs and tribulations, but with his college career about to get underway, he has little time to get lost in the rearview.

"I don't think anything has really stuck out yet," he admits, adding: "I'm still looking for that big one."