Former PDS Star Colton Moving Up Hockey Ladder, Thriving at Vermont After Getting Drafted by NHL
ON THE MOVE: Ross Colton heads up the ice last winter during his freshman season for the University of Vermont men’s hockey team. Former Princeton Day School standout Colton enjoyed a big debut campaign for the Catamounts, scoring a team-high 12 goals and 15 assists to tie for second on the team in points with 27 and earn Hockey East All-Rookie honors. Colton, a fourth round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016 NHL Draft, skated with the pro club this summer at its Development Camp. (Photo Zourtesy of University of Vermont Sports Information)
Ross Colton made quite an impact when he hit the ice for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team in 2011.
Starring from day one as a freshman that winter, Colton tallied 32 points on 24 goals and 8 assists to quickly establish himself as one of the top scoring forwards in the area. A year later, Colton raised his game, amassing 47 points on 25 goals and 22 assists.
While Colton was thriving at PDS, he decided to transfer to the Taft School (Conn.) to compete in high-powered New England prep hockey circles.
“For me, PDS, school-wise and socially was probably two of the best years of my life; I met some really great people,” said Colton, crediting Panther teammate Conrad Denise and his family with having a strong influence on him during his time at the school.
“I was definitely happy at PDS but for my career down the line, I really wanted to get a little more exposure.”
Colton enjoyed a brilliant year at Taft, scoring 25 goals and 18 assists.
“It was my first time living away from home; I knew Taft was challenging academically so it was tough not having the support from home,” said Colton.
“On the ice, I think the toughest thing was it was a little bit faster, more physical, a little bit more of a grind but played with some really great players there. I had a great coach there and I surrounded myself with people who just wanted to make me a better player and that ended up being one of the best decisions I have made.”
The move to Taft put Colton on the fast track up the hockey ladder. From there, he went to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL for two seasons. While in Iowa, he committed to attend the University of Vermont and play for its men’s hockey program in Hockey East.
Last summer, he took a major step in reaching the highest level of the game, getting selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Earlier this summer, he skated with the Lightning at its Development Camp.
For Colton, moving to Cedar Rapids from Taft helped put him on the NHL radar.
“The coach [Mark Carlson] came to my house and he had to convince me to leave Taft a year early,” said Colton.
“My mom wasn’t too thrilled about that. I knew it was going to be the best for me in the long run. I finished my high school at the public high school out there and I just played with guys who were all professional or who played at the Division 1 level.”
After producing a solid debut season for Cedar Rapids with 18 goals and 15 assists, Colton stepped things up in his second season with the club. He tallied 66 points on 35 goals and 31 assists in the 2015-16 season, helping the RoughRiders to the regular season title.
“I knew I was going to go back for my second year and take on more of a leadership role and try to make a name for myself,” said Colton, who earned All-USHL first team honors that winter.
“I lived with a great family. I had all the support in the world from my teammates and coaching staff. I took control of it and had a lot more confidence. I was a captain my second year and I had a pretty good year.”
In the wake of that superb campaign, Colton got invited to the 2016 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and turned heads, getting named as the MVP of the contest after tallying five points on three goals and two assists.
“I was actually passed over my first two years in the draft and once I had that breakout year I started to get a bit more looks,” said Colton.
“My coach definitely supported me, trying to help me out getting into that game. Once I was there, I just wanted to take full advantage of it, playing against the best USHL players at the time. I was in the right spot in that game.”
That June, the NHL came calling with Colton getting selected as the 118th player overall when Tampa Bay took him in the fourth round of the draft.
“My advisor was there at the draft and he immediately texted me and said ‘you are going to Tampa Bay,’” recalled Colton.
“I remember I jumped up and hugged my dad. My mom started crying. It is something I will remember the rest of my life.”
Making the jump to the University of Vermont last winter required Colton to perform a balancing act.
“I try to do well in the classroom and on the ice; trying to balance that was tough,” said Colton.
“We have a great staff that is always helping us. You are playing against a lot of bigger, older, and stronger guys but I am also surrounded by the same amount and that definitely helped me out.”
Building on a strong opening weekend against Clarkson, which saw Colton register his first college goal in the second contest of the two-game set, he went on to enjoy a big freshman season.
“I didn’t want to over think everything, I wanted to stick to my game,” said the 5’11, 201-pound Colton, who ended up scoring a team-high 12 goals and 15 assists to tie for second on the team in points with 27 and earn Hockey East All-Rookie honors.
“I remember I got a nice pass and I didn’t even think about it, I just tried to put it in the back of the net. It was a great experience. I was a little nervous when I first got there but as the year went on my confidence level went up.”
Skating at Tampa Bay’s development camp this summer helped Colton develop more confidence in his game.
“This year, it was great to go down there,” said Colton, who has taken part in the 2016 camp shortly after being drafted.
“You meet some different people; you play against some of the top guys in the world who were drafted there. I wanted to see where I stack up against those guys. I am honestly blessed to be part of such a great organization. They care about the prospects, they treat us well. I am excited for what the future holds there.”
As Colton looks forward to his sophomore year at Vermont, he is excited about the team’s prospects after it went 20-13-5 overall last winter.
“I want to produce and have a great season; I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Colton, who has been sharpening his hockey skills this summer at the Ice Land Skating Center this summer under the guidance of Chris Barcless, his former Mercer Chiefs club coach, and doing conditioning work at a gym near his Robbinsville home.
“If the team is doing well, then I am doing well. Whatever I can do to help us get two points at the end of the night, that is fine with me. I had a pretty decent year last year so I am hoping coach [Kevin Sneddon] is going to put me in the right spot. It doesn’t matter who I am with, I will get some chemistry with them and I think we will do fine.”