The Road to the NHL Draft
Regina, Saskatchewan – The dream of playing professional sports is shared by athletes of all ages. For most, it is just that, a dream… something acted out in local rinks and on fields with friends and teammates. For a select few, being a pro is within reach.
This weekend, 211 hockey players from around the world move one step closer to realizing their dreams. The 2015 NHL Draft takes place in Sunrise, Florida and four members of the Regina Pats will be there. Forwards Austin Wagner, Jesse Gabrielle; defencemen Connor Hobbs and Sergey Zborovskiy will be in attendance hoping to hear their names called by one of the 30 NHL teams.
Leading the pack of draft eligible Pats this year is Calgary native, Austin Wagner. The 18 year-old is ranked 35th among North American Skaters in the final pre-draft ranking by the Central Scouting Service. The 2014-15 season was Wagner’s best as a Pat, posting 20 goals and 39 points over 61 games. In addition, Austin had a good showing recently at the NHL Draft Scouting Combine. He met with 23 teams and performed well in the fitness testing having the top vertical. He also had top 10 finishes in four other categories. He hopes all of this bodes well for him on draft day.
“Obviously the draft is a major milestone in my career but at the same time I haven’t done anything yet,” said Austin Wagner. “I have no idea where I might go. It could be anywhere from the first round to the seventh round, I have no idea. But I did my best this season, and at the combine, and that’s all I can do.”
Fellow forward Jesse Gabrielle is hoping to hear his name called this weekend. Gabrielle came to the Pats midway through the 2014-15 season via a trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Moosomin native is ranked 73rd by the Central Scouting Service among North American Skaters. At the scouting combine, Gabrielle was among the top performers setting records in three categories, including mean power output, fatigue index test and bench press.
For Gabrielle, who put up 23 goals and 44 points along with 112 penalty minutes last season, he knows his style of play works with certain teams. No matter how the draft goes, he will be ready to do whatever is asked of him. “I know that the teams that I talked to have a role that I fit. I know that I’m not going to be a top six, skills, finesse guy. I’m going to be a guy who’s third line, can produce but can get in guys faces and stuff.”
For Pats defenceman Connor Hobbs this has been a summer to remember. The Saskatoon product is ranked 72nd by the Central Scouting Service heading into the draft. Like his other teammates, Hobbs made an impression posting the second best bench press of the 124 participants at the scouting combine. He says that experience was invaluable to him getting a glimpse of what being a professional is like. Having met with 11 teams was a pleasant surprise for Connor who posted 16 points and 21 penalty minutes in 33 games with Regina. He expects the night before the draft to be a sleepless one.
“I’m super excited, I’m super pumped, I’m going down with my Dad,” says Hobbs. “If I don’t get drafted, then whatever. I’m excited to go back to Regina next year.”
Defenceman Sergey Zborovskiy rounds out the contingent of Pats players heading to Florida. The 18 year-old native of Moscow, Russia had the biggest leap in the final Central Scouting Service rankings. He jumped 94 spots to sit at 103rd. Zborovskiy says he’s had interest from about 12 teams with some meetings planned for Florida. He’s hopeful to hear his named called.
“I’m feeling good, this is a big step in my career,” said Zborozskiy. “You never know what will happen in Florida but I’m excited.”
Two other members of the Regina Pats are also draft eligable. The two Adams, Brooks and Berg could have their names called this weekend. Forward Adam Brooks is ranked 176th by the Central Scouting Service while fellow forward Adam Berg is ranked 200th. Neither are planning to be in Florida this wekeend.
The NHL Draft takes place on June 26 and 27 at the BB & T Centre, home of the Florida Panthers. Round one takes place Friday night, with rounds two through seven on Saturday.
The Regina Pats will be there to bring you the latest from Florida. The Pats PR Guy will be there as these players hear their names called. Follow along on Twitter at @WHLPats, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ReginaPats and at www.reginapats.com for the latest.