Birthday presents don’t get much better than the one Stephen Silas
received earlier this summer.
Instead of spending his 18th birthday at home, relaxing with his friends and family, Silas was seated in the lower bowl of STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, waiting anxiously for one of the most exciting moments in his young hockey career.
It was on June 26, 2010 that Silas celebrated both his birthday and the first step on his path to one day becoming an NHL defenseman. That afternoon, he heard his name called by the Colorado Avalanche, who selected him in the fourth round (95th overall) of the NHL Entry Draft.
|Silas was selected by the Avalanche in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft |
“Definitely one of my best birthday gifts, for sure,” said Silas. “I got kind of spoiled getting drafted on my 18th birthday. It’s definitely one I’ll remember.”
Hearing his name called on draft day was the payoff that came after what was somewhat of a trying season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls.
You see, the Bulls had come to be known as perennial contenders in the OHL. In three straight seasons from 2006-07 through 2008-09 (the last of which was Silas’ first year with the club), the Bulls had claimed the East Division crown and advanced at least to the Eastern Conference Finals in each campaign.
But the 2009-10 season, Silas’ second year with Belleville, was a much different experience. After losing many of their veteran players, the Bulls fell on hard times while fielding a young team that never quite came together. The result was a 20-40-2-6 record, a last-place finish in the East Division and no playoff berth.
Even though the season was difficult at times for Silas and his team, it might have actually been the best thing for his career in the long run. A rare second-year player to wear an ‘A’ on his jersey, Silas said he’s actually glad that he was forced to tackle some adversity head-on.
“It’s tough when you have a year like that, but you learn numerous things about your commitment to the game, and that when the going gets tough, not to give up,” said Silas. “It’s kind of a cliché, but last year I kind of saw that more. That will help for sure down the road. Maybe if I was on a better team, things wouldn’t have worked out the way they did for me. I’m happy that I’ve been able to see both the highs and the lows, because it can only help me in the long run.”
It also afforded him the opportunity to play in all different situations. This past season, the blueliner rarely came off the ice in special teams situations and was also counted on to check the opposition’s most talented forwards.
“My first year I got to play a bit on the power play, but not much,” said Silas. “My second year I really didn’t come off during special teams, and that helped me in my development. Playing against the other teams top lines will hopefully help me pan out as a player down the road.”
Assuming he ends up back in Belleville, Silas will have plenty of responsibility waiting for him.
“I think my role will stay the same, but the leadership will come more and more. The team will get a lot better, I think. Having a young roster last year, everyone got their feet wet in the league. They’ll know what to expect this year, so it should help out a lot.”
And when he gets there, he’ll see a familiar name on the back of one of his teammate’s jerseys. That name would be “Gaunce”, as in Brendan, the younger brother of Avalanche prospect Cameron. The younger Gaunce is a highly-touted forward that Belleville chose second overall in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.
“He’s been doing really well so far in preseason. He’s a big boy too, so that will help for sure,” said Silas. “We (Silas and Cameron Gaunce
) joke around about it. It’s fun knowing the connections. It’s really a small world.”
All jokes aside, Silas and 19 other prospects are currently attending Colorado’s 2010 rookie orientation camp, looking to make an impression on the Avalanche’s coaches and staff prior to the start of training camp.
Known in the OHL as an offensive defenseman (he totaled 49 points in 66 games a season ago) who likes to join the rush, Silas is trying to make a simple statement during his time in Denver. And that statement beckons back to the day nearly three months ago when he was sitting in the crowd at STAPLES Center on his 18th birthday.
“Colorado saw something in me then to draft me, so hopefully I can show them what I’m made of.”