NHL Draft Diary: Managing expectations

With less than one week to go until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the media attention is starting to build. It seems like every other day another mock draft is being published or column being written on the pros and cons of a player being taken with certain picks. For the general public, all that is seen is the end result. You will all see the celebratory hugs in the stands, the handing out of the draft jerseys and that moment where the newest member of the NHL decides whether or not to curve the brim of his draft hat. Pictures will be snapped and analysis of the most recent choice will be available instantly. What will remain unseen, however, is the work that began 11 months ago that led to this moment.

From August on, players entering their NHL draft year have been hard at work; with their respective club teams remaining at the forefront. While there is no question that having a successful club season was the primary focus of most draft prospects, there have been a multitude of events along the way that have tested the desire, skill, and energy level of prospects that were lucky enough to be selected to take part. From the Super Series in November, to the CHL Top Prospects game in January, to the recent NHL Combine, the last year has been a whirlwind during which people have scrutinized every move. We, as draft prospects, have watched that experience evolve from being exhilarating to exhausting, and finally settle in as part of every day life.

Personally, since the season ended I’ve been spending the majority of my time in the gym. I’m lucky enough to have the facility that I have to train in here in St. Albert, AB. Athletes Nation is a first class facility with staff that I trust and they continually produce top notch results for the likes of myself and fellow WHLers Turner Elson, Cody Chikie and Reid Petryk, as well as a host of professional hockey players including Tyler Ennis. Director of Athletic Performance Dan Lajoie and Head Strength Trainer Brad McNamara provide all the insight we need, and continually help us add speed and power to our game.

Along with spending Monday thru Friday in the gym, I’ve been staying on the ice with my long time goalie coach Blaine Russell. Good friends of mine, Tyler Bunz and Kent Simpson are also the products of Blaine’s coaching, and he has been a great influence on the trio of us over the years.

As far as the draft this coming weekend goes, it will be an interesting experience. I’ve been frequently asked the question about what happens if I go unselected? The reality is there will be lots of great hockey players who aren’t selected on Friday or Saturday, and that doesn’t change who they are as hockey players or as people. Regardless of the outcome this weekend, I know that nothing will change for me. I will still be back in the gym on Monday. Albeit, there will be some extra motivation, whether that be because my goal of playing in the NHL is a littler closer, or a little farther away. I had the pleasure of getting to know J.P Anderson at Hockey Canada’s goaltending camp a summer ago, and need look no farther then his success in going undrafted, signing a professional contract, and then playing in the Memorial Cup to know that there are many well traveled paths to professional hockey, and some not so well traveled.

I’m still not sure how I will spend the weekend, and whether I will want to watch the proceedings on Saturday or not. I can tell you, however, that I will be watching many of my best friends in hockey be selected on Friday night. The reality is, the top level hockey players are also top notch people, and I’m lucky enough to have gotten to play against or alongside, and befriend, guys like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton et al. I can assure you that not only will these players produce for years to come on the ice; they will make those around them better people. As for all the Alberta boys whom I grew up with, and used to loathe having to play against like Mark McNeill, Ty Rattie, and the rest of the gang, as well as my fellow St. Albert Raider alumnus and childhood friend Travis Ewanyk, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly wish you guys all the best this weekend. Hockey brings people together and I’m lucky enough to call all of you close friends. So here’s to this wonderful game, the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, and the beginning of a new one.

Editor’s note: Columnist Patrick King will file his 2011 NHL Entry Mock Draft Tuesday & will join CHL broadcast analyst Sam Cosentino for a live chat on sportsnet.ca during Friday’s first round. Be sure to read the mock and come back to have your say with the CHL experts during the draft.

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