Since being drafted by the Blue Jackets last weekend, Keegan Kolesar has had a thrilling, yet hectic few days filled with lots of emotions -- and plenty of travel.
But, despite the chaos, he said it feels great to be in Columbus, Ohio, at Blue Jackets development camp.
“I was really excited to get here,” Kolesar told BlueJackets.com. “I found out about 10 minutes after I got drafted that I was coming up here, so I went home, packed up and got out here. I left at about 7:45 a.m. and then I had to pack up. I got two hours of sleep, but I’m happy to be here.”
The 18-year-old said hearing his name called was an indescribable experience. In fact, he said the reality that he was drafted by a NHL team has yet to sink in.
“I still don’t know really what was going through my head (after being drafted),” Kolesar said. “It’s hard to describe that (feeling) and I’m just very happy and thankful that the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted me.
“And, right now at this camp, I just wanna be a sponge and absorb as much as I can and learn from everyone else here - the other draftees, the assistants and the coaching staff.”
Kolesar is a big-bodied forward (6-foot-1, 217 lbs.), and said he plans to focus on skating and nutrition these next few days at camp. In addition to the on and off-ice workouts, the young players will learn how to take cook nutritious meals and take care of their bodies.
“Overall, I’m trying to take in as much as I can and not just the on ice part, but the training aspect, the nutrition, hydration, everything, and what it’s like to be a pro player,” Kolesar said. “I think I have a good build. It’s just working on the speed and the quickness, and these on-ice sessions really help with that, working on the edgework and working on speed and skill and the nutrition aspect, the hydration, we have waters everywhere, we have good nutritional food everywhere and they’re giving us all (good) advice.”
Kolesar, who plays his junior hockey in Seattle with the Thunderbirds, said he knows a few of the other prospects at camp from playing against them in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“A lot of the Western guys here, we know each other, we talk a lot and they give me a lot of pointers,” Kolesar said. “Guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand, I play against him 12 times a year, so we’ll chit-chat every now and then, and they help me and give me some pointers and say ‘you know what, just have fun with it.’”
A native of Brandon, Manitoba, Kolesar mirrors his energetic, two-way game after current Blue Jackets player, Matt Calvert -- who also calls Brandon his hometown.
"A guy like (Calvert), I have more of a size factor I think than him, but he’s an energy player, he plays with a lot of heart, he hits, he does everything,” Kolesar said. “He plays all positions and all three zones well.”
Just like Calvert, Kolesar can play up and down the lineup -- one of the qualities that the Blue Jackets were attracted to. In 64 games with the Thunderbirds, Kolesar scored 19 goals and tallied 19 assists for a total of 38 points, and he earned a reputation as being one of the more thunderous body checkers in junior hockey.
“I like to get in on the forecheck, I like to hit, I like to fight and I play good in all three zones, defense-first minded,” Kolesar said. “But, when I get the chance in the offensive zone, I’m going to bare down and finish.”
Standing inside the Blue Jackets locker room after skating at the OhioHealth Ice Haus and training at the facilities inside Nationwide Arena, Kolesar said the main emotion he has been feeling since being drafted is thankful.
“It’s crazy, really, to say that I’m with an NHL team and I’m drafted by one,” Kolesar said. “This is a top-notch facility and I still can’t even really put it into words what it means to be here and how thankful I am.”