Andrew Kurapov, Twin City Thunder’s leading scorer, poses for a photo at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Wednesday. Andree Kehn/Sun JournalIn his midget hockey days, Twin City Thunder forward Andrew Kurapov put up points.

The Corvallis, Oregon native scored 65 goals and 73 assists in 176 games over three seasons. In his first junior hockey last season with the Islanders Hockey Club National Collegiate Development Conference team, he wasn’t asked to be a go-to player offensively as he only had a goal and two assists in 35 games.

It was probably best thing to happen to him.

“I started off as my usual role at the beginning of (last) season, but towards the end of the season, I was put in more defensive roles. I think that really helped me out for this (season),” Kurapov said. “I think that really helped my game out both ends of the ice. Now this year I am bringing it on both ends (of the ice).”

Becoming an all-around hockey player has brought out the 20-year-old’s offensive skills out again in his second season of junior hockey as he leads the Twin City Thunder in points with six goals and 16 assists in 21 games, which puts him 13th in the league.

The Thunder knew what an offensive threat Kurapov could be at the NCDC level.

“He has done a little bit for everything for us,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said. “Obviously his skill set, his play is tops in the league. He’s just a smart player, he’s a Division I kid all day long. But more importantly from a team perspective, he shows up to work every day. He has a high-compete level at practice that really elevates the other players.”

Friedman has been able to use Kurapov even-strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill. Friedman said he can put Kurapov in any of those situations because of things a coach can’t teach such as hockey sense and high-compete level.

His teammates see the same thing the coaching staff does.

“His hockey-IQ, his vision, cool, calm and collected, honestly,” Thunder forward Jeromey Rancourt said. “He never feels like he’s rushed (to make a play) it seems, which is great to have. I think he has worked hard at that and it’s been paying off.”

He takes the effort he puts on the ice to the off the ice as well.

“Honestly, just his work ethic,” Rancourt said. “He’s an animal in the gym, he’s always working on his craft on the ice before practice. I think a lot of the guys on the ice, we vibe off of him. He’s a great leader, not the most vocal all the time, but you follow his lead and how he plays. I have a lot of respect for the guy. The locker room respects him as a person.”

Colleges have taken notice of Kurapov, who is in his final year of junior hockey eligibility. He said he’s talking to schools right now and keeping his options open.

Last year not many schools were looking at Kurapov.

“One school said they watched me last year, but I am not sure many schools watched me last year,” Kurapov added. “I am definitely opening up some new eyes and new doors hopefully soon.”

Off the ice, last year was also helpful to the player he has become this year as Kurapov said the Islanders only had four players returning the 2017-18.

“I am one of the few guys on this team that has a year of NCDC under his belt,” Kurapov said. “I am definitely here to pave the way for some of the younger guys and definitely in a leadership role, also producing (offense) as well.”

Kurapov said the Thunder have a great group of guys and they have fun on and off the ice together.

Kurapov, who was one of the Thunder’s 17 draft picks in the NCDC draft in the spring, has been everything the organization was hoping for.

“As coaches you’ve got to look at players abilities, at their hockey sense, compete level, what they can bring to the team overall,” Friedman said. “We will check the box off that we made a good decision on that one.

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