Three Kelowna Rockets will be leaning on friends and family this weekend as they hope to hear their names called at the annual NHL Entry Draft.
Shane McColgan, Zach Franko and Jessey Astles were all listed by NHL Central Scouting as potential NHL draft picks this season. The trio will be watching closely this weekend as the first round of the draft takes place Friday night, followed by the rest of the draft on Saturday in Minnesota.
McColgan, once touted as a potential first rounder, was ranked at 125 while Franko was 123 and Astles was ranked 160 in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings.
“I don’t really care what round or what team I get drafted by,” said McColgan. “Whatever team wants me the most will take me. It doesn’t matter if you get drafted in the first round or the seventh round, you still have to make the team. At the end of the day that’s the way I look at it.”
Despite the fact his rankings have slipped, McCoglan says he is looking ahead to the NHL Entry Draft as a fun weekend. He admits to some nerves but say his friends and family are even more pumped up by the idea of him getting selected by an NHL team. The California native expects about 40 or 50 people to be with him watching the draft as it unfolds.
“It will be good just to be there with my friends and family who supported me my whole hockey career,” said McColgan. “It will mean a lot for them to be there. Some of them are more excited than I am now. Right now I’m just trying to have fun with it. I’m excited. I’ve been looking forward to this day since I started playing hockey.”
Across Canada, in his hometown of Winnipeg, Zach Franko will also wait with family to hear if an NHL team calls his name. Franko was fifth in Rockets scoring in his rookie season last year after compiling 53 points in 72 games. He says it’s exciting just to be mentioned ahead of the NHL draft.
“It’s definitely exciting to hear your name being up there at least in the rankings,” said Franko. “I think it’s just another step. I’m looking forward more to coming back to Kelowna and helping the Rockets win a championship than I am to the draft because I think team success is more important and leads to individual success.”
Injured in the playoffs, Franko has been cleared for full workouts as he prepares for a return to Kelowna for his second season.
As for Astles, the hard nosed winger who scored the biggest goal of the Rockets season with an overtime winner in game five of the Rockets playoff series with Portland, is in Coquitlam getting ready for the big day.
“It’s nerve-wracking because it’s the next level, it’s the big leagues and it’s every kid’s dream to play in the NHL,” said Astles. “I’m getting more nervous as the week goes by. I’m preparing for both (getting drafted or not) and even if I don’t get drafted I will just have to work my hardest and do my best and hopefully I will get a tryout somewhere.”
Whatever happens with the trio of Rockets at this weekend’s draft table, the three are all expected back in Rockets uniforms come the start of the Western Hockey League season in September, forming part of a solid group of returning players.
“We have a great group of guys,” said McColgan. “We have good chemistry and we’re all friends and I think that’s pretty important. I’m looking forward to the season. I think we can do something pretty special.”