The consistent steps Washington Capitals prospect Brian Pinho has made over the course of his three years at Providence College is not a surprise to his head coach.
"His emergence as a player is not something that we didn’t see coming. This is the progression we were hoping for when we recruited Brian Pinho," said Nate Leaman.
Pinho has changed positions and he now occupies a spot on the top line for the No. 10 Friars, who head to South Bend to face Notre Dame in a best-of-three Hockey East Quarterfinals series this weekend.
"His emergence is he’s become a first line center. As a freshman he was a second line right wing. As a sophomore he was our second line center. We’ve needed him," said Leaman.
Aside from his steady ascension up the depth chart, Pinho has elevated his overall game and has become a reliable player in all situations. The North Andover, Mass. native has 10 goals and 28 assists in 36 games, coming close to equaling his point total from his first two years in a Friars uniform.
"He’s stepped up in being a more consistent player and in his point production. He’s stepped up on the kill, on the power play and on his face-offs," Leaman complimented.
Despite the increased offensive production, Pinho is quick to point out the other areas of his game that he believes he's developed at Providence thanks to Leaman and the entire coaching staff.
"I think my defensive game and battle level," Pinho began when asked what part of his game has developed most over the past three years. "It’s something we practice a lot here. Coach Leaman does a great job of preparing guys for games and making sure we’re ready to battle and compete every game."
Leaman is a coach who preaches work ethic and consistency, two traits he sees in Pinho, who was selected with 174th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
"He deserves all the credit because he’s worked to become a better player over the summers. He’s had the hard matches every game. That’s what is impressive about his growth. He keeps finding ways to get better and finding ways to make plays," Leaman said.
"Just being prepared for every game," Pinho concurred. "Being consistent, playing hard and controlling my effort. The coaching staff does a really good job. They put us in the best position to win."
Pinho's offensive skill set isn't the type that is going to produce too many highlight reel goals. He's a good skater who generates chances through puck pursuit and a compete level.
"When I’m moving my feet, I can create a lot of chances, whether it is getting in on the forecheck or forcing a turnover and moving it to someone else. Or, having the puck and getting around the other team’s defense and getting a chance," Pinho explained. "Every time I’m on the ice I just focus on moving my feet."
In last weekend's sweep of UMass Amherst, Pinho and his linemates, left wing Erik Foley and right wing Josh Wilkins, accounted for 13 points, including all three goals in the series opener.
"As a line they have great chemistry. This past weekend what made them click was we have three pretty darn good players together and they work their tails off," said Leaman.
"We’re just focused on playing our game and executing the game plan as a team. Lately when our team has been playing as five, we’ve been pretty good and generated a lot of scoring chances. For our line, we’re just focused on working hard and the rest will take care of itself," Pinho added.
The three linemates all bring something different to the table. Foley, who was a member of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. squad at the 2017 World Junior Championship, can be a dominant north-south player who excels down low and along the walls.
"Foley is a real strong kid. He’s very explosive. If you give it to him on the wall he just takes off. Sometimes I have to play catch up. He’s very good off the wall. If he has the puck in the corner, I can predict he’s going to take it to the net because he can out-muscle guys. We’ve been playing together for the whole season so it is easy for us to read off each other," Pinho explained of the 2015 second round pick of the Winnipeg Jets.
"Foley has really been playing good hockey since he’s come back from the World Juniors. He’s had a good second half of the season. Most of that is off the puck. He’s getting to the right spot. He’s getting to the right position. He’s working," added Leaman.
Wilkins, a Raleigh, NC native, has the flashiest skill set of the three with good hands and stick skills. He's in his third season of draft eligibility.
"Josh Wilkins is having an outstanding freshman year. He has more points as a college player this year than he did in the USHL last year. He has a very good stick and he’s very smart. He’s really learned to be willing to get to the tough areas of the ice so his production has gone up," Leaman said.
"He’s very skilled and is fast. He plays with pace. He can take guys wide. He can make incredible moves. He has a great shot. You can find him anywhere and he can get it off quick," Pinho added of Wilkins.
Leaman wouldn't commit to the line staying intact for this weekend's series against the Fighting Irish, but Pinho and his teammates are eager to get retribution for a regular season series in which the Friars took just one point.
"We’ve just got to be ready to go. They’re deep. If we play with a lot of effort and compete hard, we have a good chance to pick up a couple of wins," said Pinho.
Pinho, who serves as an alternate captain for the Friars, has one consistent message for the underclassmen who weren't around when Providence won the 2015 NCAA Championship.
"Every game matters. That’s something that I’ve picked up on since my freshman year. We just focus on every game. The other captains and I try to lead by example. We try to make sure the guys are ready to compete each game," Pinho commented.