This summer has been quite the whirlwind for 18-year-old Nick Henry, the No. 94 overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.
He graduated high school, was drafted into the NHL, attended the Avs' development camp and celebrated his 18th birthday.
That's some memorable months for the Portage, Manitoba, native after a tremendous year in the Western Hockey League.
Henry's was originally selected in the WHL Draft by the Everett Silvertips, but he spent the entire 2016-17 campaign with the Regina Pats after they acquired his rights prior to the season. The forward contemplated accepting an offer to play college hockey at Western Michigan, but he ended up choosing to play for the Pats as he wanted to play and develop his game at the major-junior level.
"We're extremely fortunate to have guys like John Paddock (head coach and general manager), Dave Struch (assistant coach/assistant general manager) and Brad Herauf (assistant coach)," Henry told the Regina Leader-Post after being drafted by the Avs. "They're amazing people off the ice and they really know their stuff on the ice. They have connections around the hockey world so that's a huge part for me [being drafted after] only being there for one year. It's a huge part of my career."
As a WHL rookie this past campaign, Henry played in 72 games for Regina and registered 35 goals and 46 assists for 81 points. The right wing had 12 points (four goals and eight assists) in 22 playoff outings as the Pats lost in the league finals to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
"Losing to Seattle in six games was pretty tough," Henry said. "Obviously you want to win those. But I think that will drive our team next year."
On June 24, Henry's fate for his future in hockey was sealed when the Avalanche selected him in the fourth round of the summer selection; a moment he will never forget.
"I was sitting at home with my family and one of my friends. I saw my name pop up on the screen, and I had an instant smile," Henry said in Denver when the Avalanche's 2017 draft class was being introduced to the media. "When you see the picks going by, you obviously get a bit nervous because you want to get drafted, but it's a sigh of relief when you see your name pop up."
Henry was not in attendance at the draft in Chicago because he wanted to attend his high school graduation and be home for that special milestone, which was on the same day as the draft.
Although he was not sure what team would take him, if any, he was ecstatic to know it was the Avalanche, one of the 17 teams he spoke with weeks earlier at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, New York.
"[The Avs] really appreciated who I was as a player, and they appreciated that I played really hard in playoffs" he said to the Regina Leader-Post. "They were one of my best meetings."
Of course, just being drafted is only the beginning. Henry knows he has to continue to get better and keep playing hard.
"You don't want to take too much time off after the season, just a couple weeks here or there, but you have to be ready to put on a show," he said just prior to development camp
He also wanted to take advantage of being able to be mentored by those who have been in his position before him as a way to learn and develop as a player.
"I got to talk to the guys that have been here before. I want to take it all in, learn from their experiences," he said.
Just two days after seeing his name pop up on the TV screen, Henry was in Colorado taking part in the club's annual development camp. He had quite the showing over the several days he was in attendance, which included firing a slap shot over 90 miles per hour, earning bragging rights among his fellow prospects.
He will be ready to hit the ice this fall and help the Pats, who host the 100th Memorial Cup this season.
"This is all a stepping stone," he mentioned. "It's where your hard work starts. Obviously for me, I have some things to work on this summer, then hopefully have a really good year next season hosting the Memorial Cup. You got to earn that contract, so you have to keep working on your game."
As for his plans for the rest of the summer, healing from shoulder surgery to repair his torn labrum will be his main focus. He does not expect it to be an issue in the long term.
"I don't think it is really going to hinder me," he stated. "Obviously for a little bit of time I won't be able to do much, but once I am allowed to start working out I want to work on my legs and build on that. I don't think it will hold me back very much."
Although Henry has checked off many boxes recently on things to do as a young hockey player, this is just the start. He is ready to put in the work it takes to be in the NHL and is thankful for the opportunity.