Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals shakes hands with Cody Eakin after the Capitals drafted Eakin in the third round. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.
So you’ve been drafted. Excitement, relief, glee. Now what?
Assuming you have decided to attend the draft, your first contact with your new team will be meeting about 20 staff members at the draft table, in addition to various members of management, coaches and owners. Then you are whisked off for media duty, getting pictures taken, interviews with the local media (and national media if taken in the first round). You have now met about 40 people in the course of a half hour and the chances of remembering more than a few names is slim, although the elation of the moment makes you not worry about it.
Most teams have a reception of some sort at the end of the day for draft picks and their families, where you will meet even more people and your potential new teammates. This will be the last stage of the euphoric part of the entry draft process. Now, it is time to get to work – your professional career starts immediately.
There will be the team’s Summer Development Camp to attend and before this first day ends flights will be made and preparations begun. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows NHL teams to hold a seven-day camp each summer for their young players and this will be your first on-ice experience to impress your new team. There is no longer an off-season for prospects, as in this era teams feel there is too much at stake not to push their players’ development to the max year-round.
You will also be getting a new fitness regimen from the team’s strength and conditioning coach at the camp (or before, if he’s really after you), which will be different than any workouts you were used to in the past. These workouts will be both generally geared for NHL players and specific to your own weaknesses, which have been passed on to the strength coach by the scouts. A strong word of advice – take it seriously! Most top prospects have been working out with a specialized personal trainer or college strength coach and these people inevitably believe their way is the best. But if you show up at rookie camp in September without demonstrating your prowess in the team’s program, you will start your new career off on the wrong foot for sure.
If you are an elite North American player, you will have to shoot off to your country’s world junior program camp in August soon after you leave the team’s Summer Development Camp. But if you were drafted from Europe, you will have an even stronger demand on your time – the European teams generally have a month-long (or more) summer program that is mandatory for you to attend.
What many people around you will forget (or not want to acknowledge), is that you are still a teenager. You most likely left home to play hockey at the age of 15 or 16 and summer is the only time you spend with your family. That period is now over – being an NHL draft pick is not geared towards family life. One thing you have going for you is that the NHL Players’ Association negotiated the Summer Development Camp down to one week – many teams used to hold these camps for up to a month.
So one final word of advice for those hoping and waiting to be drafted next year – spend as much time with your family and friends as you can in the coming season, because in late June next year your entire life will change drastically.
Tom Lynn served for nine seasons as Assistant General Manager of the Minnesota Wild and for six seasons as General Manager of the Houston Aeros. Prior to that he was an attorney in New York representing the NHL and other sports entities in a wide variety of legal matters, and has taught Sports Law at St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota. Read more from Lynn HERE.