‘An absolutely great feeling’
Every year, hockey commentator Don Cherry issues the same warning to NHL draft prospects: Don’t attend the draft in person unless you’re a surefire first round pick.
Cherry’s advice is designed to save prospects the potential disappointment of sitting in the stands for hours without their name being called, but Geordie Wudrick decided he was willing to risk it. On Saturday morning, he was at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa to hear the Los Angeles Kings call his name in the third round (88th overall).
“This is one of those great moments that you hope for, right up there with winning the Stanley Cup and playing your first game in the NHL,” said Wudrick, a six-foot-three, 204-pound power forward who notched 20 goals and 24 assists in 66 games last season with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. “That feeling that went through me when my name was called by (Kings GM) Dean Lombardi was just indescribable.
“Being there was an absolutely great feeling. There were so many big hockey names there. I met Bobby Orr and Mark Messier, and just seeing Wayne Gretzky around there was an experience I’ll never forget.”
While Wudrick was rubbing shoulders with the stars in Ottawa, his former bantam AAA Hawks linemate Derek Grant was back home in Abbotsford, faithfully monitoring the draft proceedings via television and the Internet. His moment in the sun came in the fourth round, when the Ottawa Senators picked him 119th overall.
“Ottawa’s one of the best Canadian teams,” Grant enthused. “It’s pretty special.”
The draft capped a momentous week for Grant, a skilled centre who racked up 63 points in 57 games with the junior A Langley Chiefs last season. On Monday, he committed to play for the NCAA’s Michigan State Spartans in 2009. On Wednesday, the Grade 12 student finished his final exams at W.J. Mouat Secondary. And on Saturday, he was booking a ticket to fly to Ottawa on Monday for a prospects camp.
“It’s been exciting, and it doesn’t get much better than this,” he said.
Grant said he had no idea which team he’d land with on draft day, but Wudrick had a notion that he might be headed to Southern California. At the recent draft combine in Toronto, he sensed strong interest from the Kings brass during a 45-minute interview.
“I got a really good vibe from them based on the comments they had about my game and how they see me developing in the future,” Wudrick said.
Wudrick was particularly excited about being picked by the Kings after they drafted his good friend Colten Teubert in the first round (13th overall). Teubert, a White Rock product who plays defence for the Regina Pats, and Wudrick are longtime summer hockey teammates who were picked one-two in the WHL bantam draft back in 2005.
“It’s sort of funny how things work out – we were rooming together at the draft combine in Toronto, and Colten said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if both of us were drafted together to L.A.’” Wudrick related. “It’s ironic that it actually happened.”