Five years ago this week, my life changed forever. And in a matter of days, dozens of NHL hopefuls will experience the same whirlwind of emotions that I did in 2019 in Vancouver.

That June, I remember going to the draft with my family. It was awesome. It was really fun. It was definitely scary. And I was super nervous. They tell you not to look at where you're supposed to go, the draft rankings and everything like that, but it's kind of hard not to. I remember looking a good amount, and I always kind of found myself right on the border of the end of the first round and early second. Obviously, it's everybody's dream to go in the first round. That was something that I definitely wanted for myself, and I feel like you'd be a fool not to.


Alex Vlasic (middle) at the 2019 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, NY

Coming from the U.S. National Team Development Program, our team was highly-scouted all year long leading up to the draft. We had eight players from our team get drafted in the first round that night. I knew I probably wasn’t going to go in the top 20, so I was able to take that time to be happy for those guys near the top — Jack Hughes at No. 1, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras in the top 10, and a run of four straight guys from 12-15 with Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cameron York and Cole Caufield. It was just awesome to see these teams pick some of my best buddies, and I was super happy for everybody. But as I was sitting there, especially as it got down to the 20s and into the 30s, I was kind of waiting. I was hoping that I was going to hear my name next. And, that night, I never did.

I tried to put on a happy face until I left the arena. I went back to the hotel room and was just really pissed, and really sad that things hadn't gone the way that I wanted. Looking back now, I was definitely a little immature in how handled my emotions and I definitely wish I could’ve maybe been a little bit better of a sport for my teammates whose names were called later in the first round.


Alex Vlasic shortly after being selected No. 43 overall by the Blackhawks during the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver

I feel like going into the draft, everyone's telling you it doesn't matter where you go, this and that. You can't really understand that until after. It can mean a lot -- it can change the outlook of your future where you go, where you're going to be living for however many years, so it is super scary, and I feel like you can't diminish that. But it was definitely eye opening that things aren't going to go your way and you have to keep your head up and just keep chugging along regardless. What really matters is what you do after. It's pretty cliche, but it is true. And I feel like I can't emphasize that enough to the younger guys that are about to get drafted: It really doesn't matter where you get drafted because guys play in the NHL from all over the seven rounds.

At the time though, it was tough. That night, my family was trying to calm me down, but it wasn't an easy night of sleep. I was just looking forward to getting back to the rink to see what was going to happen and where I was going to go.

The next day, I came in just hoping to hear my name pretty early. I just remember sitting there, talking to my sister when the Hawks came up. I honestly had no idea who was going to pick me at that point. I had kind of checked out from really listening too closely to these teams when they're announcing, but as the Blackhawks started to say, “From the National Team Development Program..” I looked at my sister, who was sitting next to me, and both of our eyes popped open. We were just waiting to hear what they were going to say next. And they started to slowly say, “Alex Vlasic,” which was just so cool.

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Alex Vlasic hugs his mom after being drafted at No. 43 overall by the Blackhawks on June 22, 2019

I think everybody was kind of shocked. You almost don't really feel like the hometown team is going to pick you. It's one out of 32 teams, right? So, what are the odds? It was just such a happy moment for me and my family. I feel like it didn't really set in until after I got out of the draft and I saw how many people texted me, my buddies and everyone just going nuts, which was such a cool thing for me to experience. And I honestly wouldn't have had it any other way.

After the draft, I knew I was going to be at Boston University for at least two years, so I wasn't thinking too far into the future. The Hawks did a good job keeping in touch and tracking what it was that I needed to work on, whether it was physical in the gym, on the ice or mentally, all those aspects of the game. I wasn't worried about where my spot was going be in the NHL lineup down the road, it was just taking advantage of the facilities and the organization at BU, which is one of the best in the country. They did such a good job helping me get what I need, and it was a great little stepping stone to propel my career to the right direction. After three years at BU, I knew I was ready for the next step in pro hockey.

I'll never forget that first year out of college, and getting to play in my hometown for the first time. It was awesome to be able to have my parents and some of my family and friends come out to my first games at the United Center. That was really special to me. Now that I'm fortunate enough to be with the Blackhawks long-term, it’s kind of the turning point for me and my family. No matter how excited we were on draft day, now it's a little bit more set in stone that this is home, and it'll be an awesome future in Chicago.

It’s easy to worry about where you're going to go in the draft, but if I could do it again, I would do it the same way 100 times out of 100. I wouldn't care about going in the first round or going top 10. I think where I'm at right now is exactly where I was meant to be, and everything happens for a reason. Words can't really explain how happy I was and how happy my family was to hear my name called five years ago in Vancouver. It was one of the best days of my life so far.


Alex Vlasic waits for a faceoff during his first home game at the United Center against the Winnipeg Jets on March 20, 2022