A version of the following story appeared in the 2016-17 fourth edition of AVALANCHE, the official game magazine of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club. For more feature stories, purchase a copy of the magazine during Avs home games at Pepsi Center. All proceeds from game-magazine sales support youth hockey associations in Colorado.
It was a dream come true for defenseman Nate Clurman to be selected in the NHL Draft, but to be picked by his hometown team put him on cloud nine.
On the morning of June 25, 2016, the Boulder, Colorado, native knew there was a chance that he could be selected on the second day of 2016 draft, but he was also keeping his expectations low since he still had a full year of high school left at the prestigious Culver Military Academy in Indiana.
However, when he heard the news that it was the Colorado Avalanche that chose him 161st overall in the sixth round of the summer selection, he was stunned.
"I was up in Vail eating breakfast," Clurman recalled. "Pretty crazy experience to hear it was Colorado, and with me being from Colorado, it was amazing. I was pretty shaken. I actually didn't eat any of my food."
Born in Boulder, Clurman spent three years of his early childhood in Southern California before returning to his home state. He played in the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders program in Boulder area and had frequented Pepsi Center to watch the Avs play.
Now he's part of the organization that plays its games off Chopper Circle in downtown Denver.
Clurman is the second Colorado-born player to be drafted by the franchise, joining Littleton native and former University of Denver Pioneer J.D. Corbin, who was picked by the Avalanche in the 2004 entry draft.
"It's amazing. Growing up, going to Avs games, seeing Adam Foote, Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Erik Johnson, all these guys I looked up to," Clurman said of being part of the Avalanche family. "The Avs are still my favorite team. I still go to a lot of games now."
Nearly a week after being drafted, Clurman was at the club's practice facility for Colorado's annual rookie development camp. Wearing the 'A' logo on his jersey and taking part in drills on the ice with many of other top prospects and new draftees, that was when the feeling of being drafted by the Avalanche started to sink in.
"At first, no way," Clurman said during the 2016 camp of joining the Avs. "Coming out here and being with all of these great players and seeing what it is like and going through all this testing and activities, it's great to be out here and see the level of play."
When he attended his second development camp this past June, Clurman was more focused on what he wanted to accomplish during the on and off-ice sessions.
"There is so much they teach you here, on the ice, off the ice, that you can take back and show some of the other guys (on your team) and lead by example," he said to ColoradoAvalanche.com. "You work on it each and every day, and it helps coming here.
"Last year was pretty surreal being here, and it's time to get to work this summer."
At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Clurman is still a few years away before Avs fans could possibly see one of their own guarding the blue line at Pepsi Center.
The Coloradoan graduated with his friends at Culver this past spring and will be playing in the United States Hockey League (the U.S.'s top junior league) this coming season with the Tri-City Storm, which is based in Kearney, Nebraska, just a five-hour drive from Denver.
Clurman will be at Tri-City for one year before beginning his college hockey career at the University of Notre Dame in 2018-19. He signed his letter of intent to play for the Fighting Irish last November.
"Just develop I think physically on the ice, hone my skills, get some good playing time and take that year to really focus on hockey," noted Clurman on his expectations with the Storm. "I'll be taking some [college-course] classes, but it will be a good year to focus on hockey."
As Clurman aims for success at the junior and collegiate levels, he'll look to continue improving his game while keeping an eye toward a possible pro future.
He'll have an NHL team in his own backyard to help him reach that dream.