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Sherwood: Blue Jackets debut 'a dream come true'

History made as central Ohio native skates for Columbus

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Now that it's all said and done and the win was in the books, Kole Sherwood could take a breath. 

After a short chat with the media, he could meet his parents in the bowels of the United Center, check what surely was a very busy cell phone, and enjoy the fact that not only did he make his NHL debut and make history doing it, he was part of a winning effort in the Blue Jackets 5-2 victory at Chicago on Saturday night. 

And he could reflect on what was a great moment for himself, the Sherwood family, and the central Ohio hockey community. 

"It feels good," he said. "A dream come true. It was some of the most fun I've ever had." 

Video: Sherwood comments on his NHL debut

History will show Sherwood played just 10 shifts for a total of 6:58, mostly on a grinding line with center Riley Nash and wingers Lukas Sedlak and Anthony Duclair. It will record that he wasn't afraid to throw the body around, recording a team-high four hits and blocking a shot while showing he can be a bear to handle in the offensive zone.  

READ MORE: Sherwood debut makes history for central Ohio

It won't quite show that Sherwood had to take the traditional rookie lap, skating the first few seconds of warmups around the United Center ice by his lonesome, or that he had to announce the lineup in the dressing room ("I got a couple words in my ear; I didn't give the boys too much energy," the low-key Sherwood said), typical acts for a rookie making his NHL debut.

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: Take a spin, @92KSherwood! pic.twitter.com/enMWe0LsXi

And it also won't show the moment when Sherwood felt like it was all real, like he was a true NHL player at the age of 22. 

"It was second shift," he said. "It really felt good, hounding them down low. You couldn't take the puck off my stick. From that point on, I thought it was another game. Obviously guys are a lot better, but that second shift, I really felt comfortable. When someone in the NHL, I think it was (Duncan) Keith or (Brent) Seabrook couldn't take it off my stick, it made me feel good obviously." 

Of course, that only tells half of the story. When Sherwood jumped over the boards 2:31 into the game, he became the first Columbus product to suit up for the Blue Jackets in team history. The kid who used to sit in the nosebleeds with his brother Kiefer, who also debuted this season, to watch Rick Nash was now a bona fide NHL player, and one of the last boxes was checked off when it comes to the maturation of Columbus-area hockey. 

The stars couldn't have aligned much better, either. Sherwood made his debut against Dublin native Connor Murphy, the Blackhawks defenseman who became the first central Ohio product to make his NHL debut in 2013.  

There was also the fact that Dublin native Trent Vogelhuber, the first Columbus-area product to turn pro and now an assistant coach with the AHL's Cleveland Monsters, was the one who got to deliver the news to Sherwood on Friday. 

"He was just like, 'You want to go home?'" Sherwood said. "I was like, 'What?' He was like, 'Do you want to go to Columbus?' I was like, 'What do you mean?' Then I kind of got the hint." 

The connections didn't end there. It helped that Sherwood was matched up against another No. 88, Patrick Kane, the American star whose game - and moves - Sherwood tries to copy.  

The debut also came with the future stars of Columbus hockey, the 12-year-old AAA Blue Jackets, getting ready to play in the Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament, the prestigious international competition that Sherwood and the rest of the area's big success stories competed in as youngsters.  

"I think it's overwhelming in a positive way," Sherwood's father Roger said. "This was something we've always waited for, hoped for, for both boys. When we got the text, my wife and I looked at each other with joy. It's like, 'It's happening. It's coming true.'" 

After an impressive junior career in which he became known for his goal-scoring in the Ontario Hockey League, Sherwood got off to a bumpy start this year when such sporadic ice time on a Monsters team with a glut of forwards forced him to spend a weekend in the ECHL. 

Slowly but surely, though, his confidence and game returned. A call-up to be a healthy scratch in mid-January seemed to further stoke the fire, and Sherwood had scored seven goals in 11 games before joining the team Friday. 

"He's played really well, really good reports on him up in Cleveland," head coach John Tortorella said. "He's a big body. He's got really good speed. … I'm thrilled for him that he gets to play a game." 

It will likely be the first of many in a career that will could provide the same inspiration to central Ohio youngsters that Sherwood derived from Nash.  

That's down the road, though. For now, the most important stat was 1-0, with one win in the books as an NHL player. 

"It feels good when everyone is happy," Sherwood said. "I couldn't be more happy and excited for the guys." 

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