This has been sitting as a draft for two weeks+ and new stuff just keeps happening, so this is probably going to be very long, but I'll try to make it tl;dr
PRE-DRAFT: I finally have time to write and share with you my experiences from over the past weeks. Leading up to May 3rd, it was just more of the same stuff. Skating, both in a men's league and private training, and working out. No real contact with anyone, just doing my thing and getting ready. I was supposed to be skating in front of the Johnstown GM prior to that, but that fell through. When I got up there though, I got a chance to finally play some real hockey and gain an appreciation for the guys that play at that level already.
The week before the showcase, Johnstown's GM was in the Philly area, specifically to see me skate. We thought we had an ice slot all set to go when a former Flyer (who's last name is "small") decided that it would be a good time to get his newest guy a scouting opportunity as well. My former coach and I agreed that we should back out of the ice slot due to our relationship with the rink and the former Flyer. That really sucked and made me a hell of a lot more nervous going up to Boston and skating in front of the GM for the first time in game situations that I had never experienced before. I would have to get over it though, and pretty soon because the showcase was that weekend.
The trip wasn't the easiest I've ever experienced. 95 in Connecticut was slowed to a crawl for nearly the entirety of it. I barely made it to the first game. With no time to check in to the hotel, let alone warm up, I headed to the rink. When I got there, half of the team was sitting outside. I was confused to say the least until I looked into the room and it was literally full with no room for even a stick. I got dressed outside and made my way to the ice for my first experience of junior hockey.
The first game wasn't bad. Two assists and a good hit were the end result. The teams that my team would play next though weren't going to be nearly as easy to play against.
The next two games were against teams that were centered around kids from Canadian junior leagues. The second team we played in the tournament was made of all OJHL kids from the same team. That was the fastest hockey that I've ever played. Everything happened so quickly, and I couldn't keep up. That game didn't go so well. The third game was against a team that featured three guys from the QMJHL. It was really easy to pick out who they were when we started to play. They were faster, stronger, and smarter than anybody on my team. I took a solid hit from one of them in open ice. It didn't feel good. I felt better overall though and ended up almost scoring a goal. I would have if the goalie didn't make a miraculous save, but oh well.
No good junior teams approached me after the tournament, but that was expected. I headed home knowing what I needed to work on to get on the level of those kids.
POST PRE-DRAFT: I headed right back into the gym when I got back. I had a camp for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL two weekends from then. The workouts changed and I've slowly started to see gains in muscle mass and foot speed.
The camp started on May 17 and featured a practice and two games. The practice was my first time on the ice since pre-draft, so I was rusty and that certainly didn't help. My feet felt like they were stuck in concrete as I tried to keep up with the speedier guys in the group. The games felt better, and even the coaches said that I had improved significantly throughout the camp. I just tried to keep my game simple. Good stick and bodywork, solid first pass out of the defensive zone, and providing a little bit of offense. I must have blocked a good 15 shots during those two games, and those guys can shoot hard. One shot caught me right above the heart (it hit me so hard, it left a mark under my shoulder pads) and scared the daylights out of me, as I've switched from a cage to a half-shield. On the note of a half-shield, I took my first high stick that weekend. That hurt so much because the stick caught me three times in that one motion: chin, forehead, and then nose.
At the end of camp, the coaches told me that they didn't need a player like me, so they let me go. The camp, being at Aston, was also attended by Little Flyers scouts. They liked me enough to offer me an AJHL contract on the spot, so that weekend wasn't completely a bust.
My advisor has also been working to get my name out to other junior teams. The Massachusetts Islanders in the EJHL, Washington Jr. Nationals in the AJHL, and Lake George and a couple of other teams from the NSHL have expressed serious interest in me if the NAHL doesn't pan out. One team also sent me an email inviting me to a camp that my advisor didn't plan on: the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. When I got that email, I freaked out. That would be an insane experience to go out and just play against those guys. I most likely wouldn't make the team as they aren't graduating any defensemen and I wasn't drafted, but why not go out for the experience?
Well, I managed to compress that pretty well. I'll be writing a part three soon, but it could be a while. Thanks for reading and let's get together to play some hockey soon!