NEWARK, N.J. -- Warren Rychel has spent years grooming his son, Kerby, for this day: the 2013 NHL Draft. As vice president and general manager of the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, the elder Rychel has overseen the development of his son, a left wing who is the Spitfires' best player and a heavily touted NHL prospect.
It's a big day for Warren, who sits in section 19 of Prudential Center with Kerby, his wife Denise and his younger son, Maddux. All three of Rychel's sons, including the youngest, Kendall, are named after baseball players.
"I've been pounding on him since he was 12 years old to get ready mentally," Warren told NHL.com. "We had those great teams and he was coming in as the GM's son, and now he's made his own way."
Fortunately, the Rychels have some friends who accompanied them here. Kerby's good friend, forward Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67's, is also a top draft prospect, and the families have enjoyed the week together.
When the Florida Panthers select Aleksander Barkov with the second pick, the Barkov clan cheers two rows in front of where the Rychels sit. They embrace and celebrate as the Finnish prospect is escorted toward the stage. When the fourth selection is announced, Seth Jones to the Nashville Predators, Warren gently rests his hand on Kerby's shoulder.
The mood lightens when the Calgary Flames step up to make the sixth pick of the draft.
"I think this is it," Kerby Rychel says.
He's not talking about himself. He thinks this is where Monahan might get picked. When the Flames confirm his suspicions, the entire section, which includes members of Monahan's family, goes wild. Monahan's 94-year-old great-grandfather, Terry, even leaps to his feet.
"That's awesome," Kerby says.
In a perfect world, Rychel would play alongside his friend in Calgary. The Flames have the 22nd pick in the first round, so it's a possibility. But no one sees Kerby still being available then.
"Hey Kerby," Monahan's uncle Bob says. "Too bad you can't stick around until 22."
"That would be sick," Rychel says.
Later, the New Jersey Devils prepare to pick ninth. It's higher than Kerby is expected to go, but Maddux gets excited at the prospect of the Devils taking his older brother. Dad points out the Devils aren't looking for Kerby's particular skill set.
"Goaltending," he says quietly.
He's right. Moments later, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces New Jersey has traded the pick to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider.
As the Columbus Blue Jackets brass takes the stage to announce the 14th pick, their first of three first-round selections, the Rychels appear noticeably tighter. It's around here Kerby is expected to be taken. Moments before the pick is announced, Maddux turns to Kerby with a bright-eyed look. He has a good feeling. Kerby looks back and shakes his head.
Seconds later, Columbus takes Swedish forward Alexander Wennberg, who happens to be sitting directly in front of Kerby. While the Wennberg family erupts, the Barkovs come by to celebrate.
Warren downplays the stress level among his family, citing his own hellish experience as a player in the draft.
"I went through this before. I worked in the NHL as a scout," Warren says. "I went through the 1985 draft with my dad. I sat there for nine hours and I never got picked."
Kerby expects his name to be called soon, and every moment that doesn't happen isn't exactly comforting. A few picks later, Maddux can't help but try to crack the tension.
"Me and you are laid back," Maddux says to Kerby's agent, Ken Overhardt, before pointing to Warren and Kerby. "These two …"
Overhardt is doing a good job of keeping the atmosphere positive. When the Ottawa Senators step up to make the 17th pick, he has an inkling. Another client of his, Kyle Turris, plays for Ottawa and the team could be a good fit.
"He can play with Kyle," Overhardt says. "This team could work."
Ottawa instead selects forward Curtis Lazar. But when the San Jose Sharks trade up to get the 18th pick in the draft previously held by the Detroit Red Wings, everyone perks up. San Jose was believed to be interested in Kerby, enough that Overhardt crosses his fingers.
San Jose selects defenseman Mirco Mueller.
At this point, Tie Domi, a longtime NHL adversary of Warren's and the father of Max Domi, whom the Phoenix Coyotes selected at No. 12, comes over to say hi.
Then, with the 19th pick, it happens.
"The Columbus Blue Jackets are proud to select from the Windsor Spitfires, Kerby Rychel."
With those 14 words, Columbus director of amateur scouting Paul Castron brings the Rychel family to their feet. Kerby gives his dad a bear hug before turning to his mom for an embrace. Domi quickly returns to complete the conversation.
"I guess I've got to congratulate you," he says.
One by one, Warren's old hockey buddies drop by as his son walks to the stage. Joe Sakic, Mike Ricci and Claude Lemieux, who won the Stanley Cup with Rychel as members of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, congratulate him. Then Columbus president of hockey operations John Davidson walks up the stairs.
"Welcome to the organization," he says.
As Warren Rychel sits back down, he tries to look calm, but he's justifiably elated.
"I'm proud of him. This is just the start," Warren says. "He gets to go to training camp and go home and start working out and mentally get ready to go."
Naturally, the conversation turns back to Warren's draft day -- a disappointing one that inspired in Rychel a work ethic he hopes his son can use to make his own road in the NHL.
"It was hell," Rychel says remembering his own draft.
He chokes up and takes a sip of water.
"I'm glad my dad is here. He doesn't have to wait hours again and go home disappointed," Warren says. "I'm excited. He gets to be here too."
Author: Tal Pinchevsky | NHL.com Staff Writer