Former Steamboat hockey player drafted to USHL, will play Division I at Air Force

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Lucas Coon was in fourth grade, he wrote an assignment about a goal he had: to get into Shattuck-St. Mary’s, an elite hockey boarding school in Minnesota. His family didn’t have a hockey history by any means, but that was the dream. Lucas’ mother, Ann Coon, didn’t even know about the assignment until years later, when Lucas actually got into the school.

After four years at Shattuck, one of the best professional hockey player-producing schools in the country, Lucas committed to play Division I hockey at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In the first week of May, he was selected in the fifth round of the U.S. Hockey League draft by Cedar Rapids, a junior team in Iowa.

At the request of the Air Force Academy, as most players bound for DI do, Lucas will spend time on the Cedar Rapids team before putting on a silver and blue uniform. Since the Air Force Academy has updated its policies, Coon could go pro before fulfilling his military requirement, which of course, is the plan.

“Had Lucas just got into Shattuck and his career was over, we would have been proud. The level of hockey there is insane, and the kids that he played with are playing on the national team,” Ann said. “He was in really good company.”

With the track he’s on, Lucas is on his way to being one of the most successful hockey players out of the Western Slope, and perhaps eventually, the state.

“Our family is super proud of him, and I know Steamboat Springs has only had a few people make it this far in hockey,” said Jack Coon, Lucas’ older brother.

Lucas caught the eye of the Air Force Academy and the Cedar Rapids USHL team through four tough years at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

There are 24 active NHL players who played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, including the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, and Colorado Avalanche center, Nathan MacKinnon.

When Lucas first arrived in Faribault, Minnesota, he wasn’t quite prepared for the elite level of play. He made the lowest tier team and over the years, slowly moved up the ranks.

“When Lucas got to Shattuck, he was this little, tiny — I can’t stress this enough — he was so small, barely made it into the school,” Jack said. “He was just like a decent player, nothing special. As each year progressed, he got bigger and stronger and better, of course. His senior year, he finally made the prep team.”

“The word that keeps coming up during his time at Shattuck was ‘late bloomer,’” added Lucas’ father, Geoff Coon.

This past season, Lucas made the prep team, the highest level achievable at the school. Jack said his brother was not expected to play a large role on the team. Over the first eight games, Lucas netted seven goals, establishing himself very quickly on the squad. With the season cut short, Lucas ended the year with 34 points, including 18 goals. He was the sixth top scorer on the team and earned the 10th-most points.

“The school has really embraced him because he was a kid that came in, not like Sidney Crosby with a ton of natural god-given talent, but worked on it and worked hard,” Ann said. “He worked himself right up to the very top of that school, and as a result, got noticed by colleges and junior coaches. … That was years ago, in fourth grade, that he wanted that. He’s a goal setter for sure.”

When the season was cut short, the Sabres were 35-8-3. Lucas returned home where he’s been antsy to play the game he loves. He hung up a tarp and painted a goal and targets in the corners and has been shooting 300 to 400 pucks at it a day off a shooting pad.

“I have not seen anyone work harder than Lucas at hockey,” Jack said. “He’s developed into one of the best, smartest players I’ve seen play. He’s super creative, loves to have fun out there. He’s not afraid to make mistakes, and if he does make a mistake, he doesn’t really get down on himself.”

The Coon brothers got into hockey thanks to peer pressure. Jack, the eldest, joined because all his friends were involved in the sport. Intrigued by his brother’s new sport, Lucas started playing for the Oak Creek Kodiaks, just for fun on the outdoor rink. When he joined the Steamboat Youth Hockey Club, his skills were immediately apparent. He helped the Peewee A and Bantam A teams win state titles.

After finding success at that level, Lucas played for the AAA team in Boulder, the Rocky Mountain Roughriders, where his coach saw promise and helped him get into Shattuck-St. Mary’s. However, a not-so-great language arts grade prevented the school from accepting him. Six weeks later, Ann called the school to inform them Lucas had improved his grade from a D to an A, and with that, Shattuck welcomed Lucas and his work ethic.

Now, as her son gears up to play in one of the most sought after junior leagues to prepare for a DI education and playing career, she’s done doubting her son’s ability to meet his goals.

“About two weeks ago, I said to Lucas, ‘That’s it, I’m done questioning your goals and your motives,’” said Ann. “Every time he put something out there that we thought, as parents, was just out of reach, he did it. Then he did the next one and the next one.”