To be number one means success. But in reality, as an athlete, you do not actually accomplish anything by being the first guy picked other than the accolades that come along with it and the feeling of pride. It’s an elementary school yard way of deciding which team you are going to play for. A team picking 1st will naturally select who they feel is the best player. Other then the aforementioned spotlight and extra media attention, you are going to have to put in the same amount of work as the guy selected 211th to reach your goal of playing professional hockey. This is something realized by many of this years top NHL draft selections. Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones were drafted one through four respectively at the NHL’s entry draft held on June 30th. All are considered to be can’t miss, superstar caliber hockey players who will greatly improve their teams chance for future success and ultimately, a Stanley Cup championship.
The difference between hockey players that go on to have good careers, and those that go on to have great careers is the work they put in after the migraine inducing television production lights turn off after the draft. As 17 and 18 year old young men, it cannot be easy to have praise and admiration heaped onto you at a feverish pace and then not feel like you’ve reached the top of the mountain. I don’t intend to down play the fact that being drafted into the NHL is a momentous accomplishment for these young men but I am always so impressed by the ones who are able to filter out all the glitz and glamour of the day and respond to the question of “what comes next?,” with the reply, “work.”
These superstar athletes are driven by accomplishment, they don’t settle for it. One goal reached means the next is one step closer to being obtained. The seasons of Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, which I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand, illustrated the ability of these kids to drive themselves towards endless accomplishment.
As 15 year olds, they were selected 1st and 2nd overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. They went on to have extremely successful rookie campaigns by leading their team all the way to the league semi-finals versus the Rimouski Oceanic, eventually losing that series 4-2. What followed in their 2nd year as junior players was nothing short of spectacular.
They both started the 2012/13 season at a torrent pace and would go on to both earn spots on the Canadian world junior team as 17 year olds, a feat in itself. Next came a league MVP award for Drouin, and playoff MVP award, a QMJHL President Cup title, Memorial Cup MVP for MacKinnon and a Memorial Cup Championship for them and the Halifax Mooseheads. I list all of that off for you to illustrate that one success lead directly to another; the snowball effect, rungs of a ladder, steps on a staircase. You can pick your analogy, elite athletes like this do not settle for anything and they will not settle for their draft selections as illustrious as they were. As each of them said in numerous post draft interviews, the work starts tomorrow.
I watched with confetti raining down from the rafters of the Halifax Metro Centre as Nate MacKinnon hoisted the President Cup to Drake’s hit song “Started from the bottom” blaring into the arena. “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” He was there, in that moment. Less then a week later he and Drouin traveled west to the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon Saskatchewan and climbed that mountain, hoisting the Memorial Cup and again paraded around the ice with another championship trophy listening the repetitious melody of “Started from the bottom.”
This is as much a story about those players that were taken with the first and third picks as it is with the player selected at 30th, or 211th. A Memorial Cup championship doesn’t give you a leg up when competing against other professionals in the NHL; chances are Nate and Jonathan are going to run into some competition that claimed that title long before they ever did, in fact, it is a certainty. They are fully aware of this. They, and the 209 other lucky and hard working young men that heard there names called at the draft in Newark New Jersey on June 30th are all starting from the same spot, the bottom.
Who ultimately gets to say “we’re here!” is up to how bad each one of them wants it and is willing to work for it, from this day forward. They all walked on the same stage in New Jersey, the same door has been opened to all of them. Speculating on draft winners and losers based on past accomplishments, name recognition or hype is only useful to a point. Understanding the drive inside each player is a much better way of forecasting future success, and lets just say I’ve seen the rare engines under the hood that drive the likes of MacKinnon and Drouin. This is good news for teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, because chances are before to long the confetti will be raining down on those players again, and they’ll be singing out, “now we’re here!”. I know MacKinnon likes Drake, so I guess the only question left is, will he finally be allowed in a locker room?
Here are the results of the 1st round of the NHL draft held Sunday June 30th in New Jersey. 30 guys that will all start their journeys to first make an NHL roster, then grow as players and hopefully help get their teams closer to the summit of the NHL, the Stanley Cup.
2013 NHL Draft – 1st round
1. Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
2. Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers
3. Jonathan Drouin – Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Seth Jones – Nashville Predators
5. Elias Lindholm – Carolina Hurricanes
6. Sean Monahan – Calgary Flames
7. Darnell Nurse – Edmonton Oilers
8. Rasmus Ristolainen – Buffalo Sabres
9. Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks
10. Valari Nichuskin – Dallas Stars
11. Samuel Morin – Philadelphia Flyers
12. Max Domi – Phoenix Coyotes
13. Josh Morrissey – Winnipeg Jets
14. Alexander Wennberg – Columbus Blue Jackets
15. Ryan Pulock – New York Islanders
16. Nikita Zadorov – Buffalo Sabres
17. Curtis Lazar – Ottawa Senators
18. Mirco Mueller – San Jose Sharks
19. Kerby Rychel – Columbus Blue Jackets
20. Anthony Mantha – Detriot Red Wings
21. Frederick Gauthier – Toronto Maple Leafs
22. Emlie Poirier – Calgary Flames
23. Andre Burkovsky – Washington Capitals
24. Hunter Shinkaruk – Vancouver Canucks
25. Michael McCarron – Montreal Canadians
26. Shea Theodore – Anaheim Ducks
27. Marko Dano – Columbus Blue Jackets
28. Morgan Klimchuk – Calgary Flames
29. Jason Dickinson – Dallas Stars
30. Ryan Hartman – Chicago Blackhawks