Many boys who lace up a pair of skates and spend hours chasing a puck on a frozen sheet of ice dream of one day making it to the NHL.
For a quartet of Colorado College players, that dream became reality in recent years when they were drafted by NHL teams. Their draft-day experiences may have varied greatly, but one thing tied them all together — unadulterated exuberance.
“It was pretty surreal,” said sophomore defenseman Peter Stoykewych, who was taken in the seventh round by the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) in the 2010 draft. “You watch NHL hockey games growing up, and it’s always your dream.”
Those special days in June were unforgettable for Stoykewych and his teammates Scott Winkler, Hunter Fejes and Aaron Harstad, days that rank among the best of their lives. Harstad, a sophomore defenseman for CC, saw his name pop up on the “ticker” at the bottom of the television while watching the 2011 draft with family and friends, and there was much celebrating in the Harstad household that night.
“It’s a good feeling, and I’ll definitely remember that night forever,” said Harstad, who was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the seventh round. “Just knowing there’s (a team) out there that likes the way you play boosts your confidence. Growing up, all I wanted to be was an NHL hockey player, and that’s what I’m planning on doing.”
Stoykewych, a sophomore defenseman for CC, was in the shower getting ready for his high school graduation when his brother, Adam, started banging on the door to tell him the news. It was a huge day for Stoykewych, who not only received his diploma, but also a call from the team congratulating him on his selection.
“It was a pretty exciting day for me,” said Stoykewych, who grew up in hockey-crazed Winnipeg, Manitoba. “One of my buddies actually bought me a jersey and brought it to the graduation and gave it to me. My phone exploded (with calls) that day.”
Winkler was in his native Norway and didn’t have television access to the draft when the Dallas Stars selected him in the third round of the 2008 draft. Instead, he found out from a family member.
“I was just sitting on the couch and was watching (the draft) on the computer,” Winkler said. “It went to commercial on the computer, and my dad came in the room after getting a call from my uncle in Canada, who was watching the live feed. It was unreal and took a few days for it to sink in.”
Fejes, a sixth-round selection of the Phoenix Coyotes in last summer’s draft, was just waking up in his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, when he got the call from an adviser who’d been watching the draft live.
With the honor comes responsibility, and the players know they’re being watched as they compete for the Tigers on a weekly basis. Every now and then, their NHL teams will send a scout to evaluate their progress and give them pointers about ways to improve, and the players appreciate the chance to prove themselves to those teams.
“It just basically comes down to how you play, and this year is obviously big for me, being my last year of school,” Winkler said. “Where I’ll end up, I have no clue, but I definitely know I’ll be playing hockey somewhere.”