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NHL Draft: What It’s All About

07/18/2017– For many hockey fans, the dream of one playing in the NHL is one that we all have shared. I know that was certainly the case for me. I certainly imagined what it would be like to play with the best players in the world, to have fans screaming my name, and to play on the biggest stage the game has to offer. This dream was especially strong when I watched the annual NHL draft — despite not making it, I still felt the raw excitement to partake in the event.

While most of us can only imagine what it would be like to participate in the draft, attending one is something that any fan can do. I got my opportunity to attend in June of 2013 when it was being held at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. It was an especially exciting experience for me, because I was there to support Steve Santini — a friend of mine who’s now a defenseman for the ‘Devils. Steve wasn’t a top prospect, but he was projected to go within the first few rounds. Even though I wasn’t the one being drafted, waiting to her his name to be called was almost like waiting to hear my own.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how I’d feel. There were so many elite players eligible, and it was hard to imagine where my friend Steve would fit in. So many world class players were taken in the first round, including guys such as: Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones. I remember like it was yesterday — NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman came to the stage podium before the Devils were to announce their ninth over all pick, but the crowd drowned him out with Boos during his attempts to speak. “I have a trade to announce” Bettman said,  “I think you’re going to want to hear this… New Jersey trade the ninth selection in the 2013 NHL draft to Vancouver in exchange for goaltender Cory Schneider.” And with that, the boos ceased and fans began screaming with excitement. This was a very important trade for the Devils because they needed a new goalie, and fans went wild with the event being held in New Jersey.

My anxiety spiked toward the end of the first round, a feeling I’m sure so many of the players felt. Santini hadn’t been selected yet — and I found my self wondering, “what if he doesn’t get drafted?” The Buffalo Sabers were up after the 34th pick, and I again felt a rush of excitement. It would be great if Santini got picked by a NY team so that I could catch some of his games. I felt like this was going to be it, but let my hopes up when J.T. Compher of the University of Michigan was selected — my stomach dropped from under me; the roller coaster continued. Though, fortunately, it was only seven picks later that Santini was drafted by the Devils at 42nd overall. The adrenaline rush was immediate, and I was instantly on my feet clapping and cheering with his family and friends.

“What a nerve racking experience,” is my thought when reflecting upon that 2013 draft. Words of advice: don’t pass up an opportunity to attend a draft if invited. I’ve heard people say that they would never go to a draft because it is boring — pure fiction. It’s very easy to get swept into the except and atmosphere that everyone’s going through. It’s a wonderful event to attend even if you don’t know anyone who’ll be picked, and is anything but boring. You may not get to play in the NHL, but you can still experience the thrill of being drafted.

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