Few kids strap on skates and hit the ice without thoughts of playing in the NHL in the back of their minds.
Whitehorse native Ted Stephens will soon be taking an important step towards making any such image a reality.
The 18-year-old recently received an invitation to the Montreal Canadiens drafting camp on June 1.
“I was surprised—I wasn’t really expecting it,” said Stephens. “I’m pretty happy and excited to go.”
The players at the one-day camp will not actually see that much ice-time. Having seen the players in games throughout the season, team officials are more interested in physical fitness and personality.
“All the guys that are on their radar go down and they interview them and test their fitness,” said Stephens.
“It’s just before the draft, so they want to get to know us and see what type of teammates we are. They’ve seen us all season so they know what kind of players we are.”
Stephens played on the Whitehorse Mustangs rep team from tyke to midget, but recently finished his second season with the Moncton Wildcats. He plays centre.
This year the Wildcats, a team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, won their division and finished second overall in the league.
Rimouski Oceanic, from Rimouski, Quebec, knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs in the second round.
“I improved a lot from the year before,” said Stephens. “My first year I was a rookie and didn’t get much ice-time. This year I got a lot more ice-time and put up some more points and played a little better.”
That may be a bit of an understatement.
In his first year, he played a total of 42 games, producing two goals and three assists. This season, with just 11 more games than in his rookie year, he scored a dozen times and amassed 29 assists.
Although the Wildcats got eliminated in the second round, Stephens got five goals and six assists in just 10 post-season games.
He also jumped from a minus five to plus 20 in the ratings.
With less than a month until the camp, the six-foot, 174-pound centre hopes to add a little bulk to his frame before heading east.
“I’m going to the gym everyday, trying to get bigger, put some weight on,” said Stephens. “I’m trying to skate as much as possible too, but they’re taking the ice out next week.”
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