Tim Benz: A Brady who Pittsburgh fans can root for — Robert Morris' Brady Ferguson
His name is Brady.
He wears No. 12 in red, white and blue.
And he may be the best at his game right now.
But it's OK, Pittsburgh. This Brady may actually bring a conference title to Pittsburgh instead of preventing one.
He's Brady Ferguson. He's a center at Robert Morris. And he's the leading returning scorer in college hockey.
The Colonials play their home opener Friday night at RMU Island Sports Center against Army. And before the season is over, Ferguson could hold every significant scoring mark in the RMU record books.
He's fifth in goals and points and fourth in assists. All three records are within Ferguson's reach if he has a senior season that only slightly exceeds his junior year.
He had 58 points last season, which led Atlantic Hockey, ranked fifth in the NCAA and set a single-season Robert Morris record.
“He's going to be a guy who could be our all-time leading scorer if he keeps it up,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said. “He keeps getting better offensively every year.”
Ferguson's junior season caught the attention of the Penguins. He took part in their development camp this summer.
“That was a lifetime experience,” Ferguson said Tuesday. “I never thought I would get a chance to do that. Just being around all those great players and that staff. That'll help me evolve my game my senior year.”
Ferguson was on the ice with current Penguins prospect Zach Aston-Reese in that camp. Aston-Reese led college hockey with 31 goals in 2016-17. Ferguson was sixth with 24. And the Penguins have a reputation for cultivating skilled college forwards in recent years: see Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust as evidence.
“I guess that helps me out a bit,” Ferguson said when asked if he may be a similar project for the Penguins.
But the club also told him where his game needs to improve.
“That extra step to get faster,'' Ferguson said. “Be a little smarter in the defensive zone. Not cheat on pucks.”
Schooley agreed with that assessment.
“He was very responsible defensively in his first two years,” Schooley said. “And as he started scoring, he started to look for a little more offense. A lot of NHL scouts are going to come watch him play.
“He's just got to make sure he's as diligent defensively as he was in his first two years. He got away from that a little bit last year. I think he knows that.”
Schooley says he gets calls “nonstop” from NHL teams about Ferguson and expects scouts from across the league to come see him play. So could the 23-year-old from Texas become the first RMU product in the NHL?
“My God, that's so far away,” Schooley said. “I hope so. I hope we get someone there. But we still have a lot of hockey to show what he can do.”
Ferguson described himself as “shocked” when he realized teams were scouting him heavily after the first game this season. Colonials goaltender Andrew Pikul has lived with Ferguson for their three years on campus. Pikul insists the extra attention hasn't fazed his teammate.
“He's done a great job balancing that,'' Pikul said. “He knows what he has to do here. He's done that first and foremost when it comes to being here for this team.”
Ferguson's individual acclaim and potential team success aren't mutually exclusive, though. The better he plays, the more likely RMU is to win its second conference tournament championship and earn a second trip to the NCAAs. And as Ferguson says, a potential run at the Hobey Baker or eventually winding up on an NHL roster would bring hard-earned attention to the program.
“One of my main goals is to get the name of Robert Morris out there,'' Ferguson said. “When I first committed here, I had no clue what RMU was. I think it'd be nice to get credit for myself. But this season isn't about me. It's about the team winning a championship.”
That other Brady who wears No. 12 has done that a few times in front of this city's sports fans. I'm sure they'd be happier to see this version do so in 2018.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.