Carson Meyer started ice skating the year the Blue Jackets franchise joined the NHL. Growing up, the Blue Jackets were his favorite team. Saturday, he became a Blue Jacket himself.
Meyer, a 19-year-old right wing from Powell, was drafted 179th overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
"It's unbelievable," Meyer said. "I don't know how to put it in words right now, I'm speechless. The Jackets are a huge reason why I started playing hockey in the first place. I grew up going to all their games so this is an awesome feeling."
Meyer now adds his name to a growing list of NHL-drafted players from Central Ohio. He grew up playing hockey with fellow Jacket prospect, Kole Sherwood who hails from New Albany. Dublin native Sean Kuraly currently plays in the Boston Bruins organization; Winnipeg Jet Jack Roslovic is from Columbus; and Dublin's Connor Murphy played over three seasons with the Arizona Coyotes before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.
These central Ohio players all played in the AAA Blue Jackets organization led by Ed Gingher.
"I know what Ed's doing with the Blue Jackets organization," Meyer said. "There's so much development the last few years. It's great to see hockey really growing in Columbus."
Columbus provided many of the tools for Meyer to develop his game, the now five-foot-11, 185 lbs. forward provided the essential things that had to come from within himself.
"He was a scrawny little 10-year-old when we first had him in the program," Gingher said. "But you realized very quickly how smart he was. You'd watch him and he was a very smart player, and you wondered if the body would catch up and it did. And that's a credit to the work and time he's put in."
Meyer had Gingher convinced with his play. The next step was convincing others. He was passed over the first year he was draft eligible for the USHL, and then when he was picked, he went late. But in 56 games with the Tri-City Storm in 2015-16, he put up 32 goals and 19 assists to silence the doubters. After not being drafted in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Meyer was an invite to the Blue Jackets development camp.
The next step was finding a college team. In his freshman year at Miami University, Meyer put up 10 goals and 16 assists in 32 games. It was a strong season and one that drew the most notice for the player entering his final year of draft eligibility.
There were a few NHL teams Meyer had talked to, including the Jackets. They'd told him they'd been watching him play and were very interested. So even though Meyer knew he probably should have found a way to distract himself as teams picked their players of the future, he sat and watch players' names roll across the television screen pick after pick all day Saturday.
"I knew which teams I'd talk to the most," Meyer said. "I knew which team to pay attention to when they were picking. Columbus was up and I saw my name go across the screen. I don't like to show a lot of emotion usually, so I just sat there with a big smile."
Meyer's phone promptly blew up with calls from coaches and others from Columbus. One of the first calls was from Gingher.
"I told him 'just look back at your path,'" Gingher said. "It was never easy. His path was a different path, as with every player, but he's a kid that just kept working. You see what he's made of and you never stop believing in the kid and more importantly he never stopped believing in himself. He just kept at it."
Gingher says being drafted should only elevate the confidence of a player who he describes as a "goal scorer who is not afraid to put himself in tough positions to get goals."
Meyer, who is planning to attend the Jackets' development camp that begins Sunday, describes his own play similarly. And when asked who his favorite NHL players are the answers come quickly. First up, Jackets All-Star Cam Atkinson. Not far behind, one of the newest Jackets, 2016 Calder Trophy winning Artemi Panarin.
Perhaps it was always meant to be that Meyer was a Blue Jacket.
Gingher says immediately after the pick for Meyer was made he received a text from a Columbus scout, "we got him!"
"When it's the Jackets (who draft a local player), it's exponentially special," Gingher said.
Draft coverage presented by Mike's Hard Lemonade.