Seamus Casey's journey from Estero, Florida to the US National Team

At 16-years-old Seamus Casey is on Team USA, has committed to play D-1 hockey at Michigan and already has NHL scouts keeping a close eye on him. The Floridian is excited to play his first season with the US National Team Development Program under-17 team this year.

(IIHF)

By: Alex Baumgartner


16-year-old Seamus Casey didn’t grow up in a hockey-crazed state like Massachusetts or Minnesota. He was born in Estero, Florida, a city known more for their weather than their hockey.


Casey started his youth hockey career with his local team, the Florida Jr. Everblades before leaving Florida to play up north. Almost a decade after starting his hockey journey in the Sunshine State, Seamus Casey is a potential top prospect for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and a member of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), which is composed of the top 2004 born players from the United States.


Youth hockey in Florida isn’t as competitive as it is in the northern United States. The level of competition in Florida isn’t the same as it would be in New England or Michigan, so a lot of talented players from the state end up leaving to play more competitive hockey up north.


When Casey was just 12-years-old, he had to make the tough decision to leave home in order to further his development as a hockey player. The current NTDP defensemen went to Michigan to play for Compuware AAA Hockey..


“The main decision was to play more games against the best competition,” said Casey. “ It’s a hard decision to leave your friends and your home, but it was really worth it.” 


Casey spent three seasons with Compuware before he had to make a very important decision about where he would play his final season before junior hockey.


Entering the 2019-2020 season,  the state of Michigan had imposed a restriction on players who wanted to move a year up (play against older competition). Many kids, like Casey, wanted to play against older players in the U16 division but couldn’t do so in Michigan. This helped line up his return to Estero where he would captain the Florida Alliance U16 AAA team.


“I really wanted to play a year up, so I decided to come back to Florida. I can go play with my friends and I get to go home and spend a year with my family, which would be amazing.”


During the 2019-2020 campaign, Casey dominated the NAPHL 16U AAA, ranking first in the league for points by defensemen with 29 in only 15 games. His team went 14-1 in the NAPHL Elite division and finished the year with a 45-11-2 record, ranking ninth in the country for 16U tier 1.


He was rewarded for his stellar play when he got the call to represent the United States at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. Representing his country is one of Casey’s favourite moments in his hockey career.


“I was in my hotel room in Dallas (when I got the call),” said Casey. “Coach Paluch called to congratulate me and tell me I made the team. I remember going in the hallway to get the call, it was pretty cool.” 


Casey was able to play alongside his best friend and Alliance teammate Gavin Brindley at the Youth Olympics, which made the experience even more special. 


“It was awesome to have your best buddy there with you. He’s obviously a really special player too and he’s going to go really far.” 


Casey left Switzerland with a silver medal and a small taste of what his future held. The Youth Olympics wasn’t going to be the last time Casey wore the red, white and blue as he made the National Team Development Program for the 2020-2021 season. 


He will be joining many of his teammates from the Youth Olympic games in Plymouth for the upcoming season. 


Casey had a few different routes he could’ve taken to further his development as a hockey player, including the Canadian Hockey League route. Casey was drafted by the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in their 2020 Priority Selection. A big downside to playing in the OHL is you forfeit your NCAA eligibility and Casey has already committed to playing for The University of Michigan once his two-years at the NTDP comes to an end. Casey ultimately decided that the NTDP/NCAA route would be better for his future.


“Personally it’s been a dream since I was a kid and I think the training you get on the route I chose is better.” Joining Team USA means Casey will be playing with some of the best kids for his age group in the world. “At the national team I’ll be competing with and against my teammates every single day for two years.”


Despite having a few years before he is eligible to play college hockey, Casey wasted no time committing to play for coach Mel Pearson and his staff in 2023.


“Michigan was the best place for me because of the support network I have around it,” said Casey. “(With) the coaching staff there and the teammates I’ll hopefully get to play with, it was really the best place to go.”


Another highly skilled defensemen who is currently tearing up the NHL took a similar path to the one that Casey has chosen. Vancouver Canucks rookie Quinn Hughes spent two years with the National Team Development Program before going to play for The University of Michigan for two seasons. Like Casey, Hughes was also drafted by the Sarnia Sting in 2015. Hughes was also born in Florida, but he didn’t live there as long as Casey.


Not only do Casey and Hughes have extremely similar hockey paths, they have comparable playstyles. Both players are fast, highly skilled two way defensemen. Neither player is afraid to hold onto the puck and they both will jump into the rush to help out on offense. 


When asked about being compared to the potential NHL Rookie of the Year, Casey took a humble approach to the comparison.


“Being compared to Quinn Hughes is obviously pretty cool, he’s really special, but I try to not compare myself to guys that are really good in the NHL because it might seem cocky.” 


Casey did recognize that they both play a similar game. “I guess trying to be like an offensive defenseman I could compare myself to him, but it's pretty cool [to be compared to Hughes].


Going into his first year with the national team, Casey and his teammates expect to play their best hockey against the top players from around the world.


“I think that I don’t really speak alone here, our expectation is to win all of our overseas tournaments, that’s really the goal.” The US will also be playing against older competition in the United States Hockey League (USHL) in the upcoming season. “ We really want to do well in the USHL, that’s kind of like a marker for how to get better by playing against those bigger, older guys.” 


Seamus Casey is ready to represent the USA and his home state of Florida when he puts on the red, white and blue this coming season with the NTDP.