For Devon Toews, a third trip through the NHL draft proved to be the charm.
After going unselected in his first two years of eligibility, the 20-year-old defenceman from Abbotsford had his name called by the New York Islanders in the fourth round (108th overall) of the annual talent lottery on Saturday.
Toews got the news in unusual fashion. He had his laptop open with the NHL Network streaming live, but the hosts weren’t following every pick in detail. Then his cellphone rang – it was Peter Quenneville, his former roommate at Quinnipiac University. Quenneville was at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for the draft because his younger brother John was a top prospect (he’d been picked in the first round by the New Jersey Devils).
“Congrats,” Peter told Toews.
“You just got picked in the fourth round by the Islanders.”
Then, as Toews put it, “it got pretty crazy pretty quick” – his phone wouldn’t stop ringing, and he couldn’t stop smiling.
“It was pretty nuts,” he said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid. You just smile and try to soak it all in.”
Toews’s road to NHL prospect status was unconventional and inspirational. He was never selected in the Western Hockey League bantam draft due to his physical stature – as a second-year bantam player, he stood 5’2″ and weighed 102 pounds. But over the next two years, he hit a huge growth spurt while losing none of his mobility, co-ordination or skill with the puck.
Toews starred for the Surrey Eagles of the B.C. Hockey League (junior A), helping the team to BCHL and Western Canada Cup victories in 2013 and earning best defenceman honours at the RBC Cup, the national junior A championship tourney.
As a freshman this past season at Quinnipiac, an NCAA program based in Hamden, Conn., he posted 17 points (second-best on the team among defenceman) in 37 games to go with a +9 rating. That drew the attention of the Islanders, who made him the highest-drafted player in Quinnipiac history.
It’s yet another piece of evidence that being passed over in the bantam draft doesn’t mean a player should give up their NHL dream.
“I was the only D-man the Islanders picked,” noted Toews, who measures 5’11”, 185 pounds these days. “There’s a lot more work that needs to be done now to make the next step.
“I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me get to this point – it would take forever to name them all.”
Toews plans to play the next two seasons at Quinnipiac and hopefully turn pro at that point.
He was one of two Abbotsford players drafted on the weekend – forward Jake Virtanen was picked in the first round, sixth overall, by the Vancouver Canucks.