|T.J. Oshie is committed to playing at the University of North Dakota next season (Photo by Mark Buckner).
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recalls the 2005 NHL Entry Draft clearly.
He was sitting at a friend’s house, relaxing and watching TV while his friends tracked the draft via the internet. They were anxiously watching to see when their friend, Brian Lee, would be drafted. Just as projected, Lee went early when the Ottawa Senators selected him in the first round, ninth overall.
But as the saying goes, life can throw you curveballs. And just over an hour later, it was Oshie, not Lee, who hit this particular curveball right out of the park.
As a projected second round selection, Oshie wasn’t even invited to the draft. In fact, he wasn’t even paying attention to the internet draft tracker.
And why would he? His friend was already selected and his name wasn’t going to be called for at least another hour.
At least, that’s what he thought, until one of his buddies stormed into the room with excitement, explaining that the Blues had just selected Oshie with the 24th pick in the draft.
“It’s always a dream to go in the first round,” Oshie said recently. “But when it comes to myself, I never actually thought it would be a dream come true.”
Immediately after the selection, the Blues’ actions were questioned by hockey analysts across the United States and north of the border. Why did the Blues select a late-second round pick in the first round? Why did they go off the board to choose a kid that still may have been available quite a bit later?
After two college hockey seasons, it is easy to see what Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blues’ scouting staff saw in Oshie.
In 86 games at the University of North Dakota, Oshie has recorded 41 goals and 56 assists (97 points). In some of those games, he played with a partially healed broken wrist. In addition, he has helped the Fighting Sioux reach the Frozen Four twice, each time falling short of playing for a national championship by one game. Most recently, he played in the Frozen Four at Scottrade Center.
“The fan support here,” Oshie began. “Even St. Louis people that had Sioux jerseys on was just amazing. You don’t see too much of that kind of support anywhere else, especially for this sport where we’re just kind of building again (after the lockout).”
Oshie won’t take too much credit for the success of North Dakota’s program in recent years. He says a lot of it belongs to his linemates, which include Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks’ first round selection, third overall in 2006) and Ryan Duncan (2007 Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s most valuable player).
|T.J. Oshie played on one of college hockey's best lines last season with Jonathan Toews and Ryan Duncan. |
“I think we played together well because no one really cared who got the credit,” Oshie said. “You’d see (Toews) or Duncan get a hat trick in a game, and I’d be just as happy as they were. Everything we do is together, so by one person getting success, we felt like it was all of our success. And it’s even better that we’re close friends. That makes it a lot easier.”
Oshie is turning heads on the pro level as well. At the Blues Prospect Development Camp in mid July, his performance on the ice drew its fair share of collective “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowds. It also drew quite a bit of excitement from Blues President John Davidson.
“I saw a guy that worked his tail off every single time he was on the ice, and he could finish,” Davidson said. “To see that, you sort of go, ‘hmmm, he’d look good if he could stick around a little longer.’”
But it’s not likely that Oshie sticks around St. Louis, at least not right now. Because of a pact he made with several of his teammates at North Dakota, Oshie is committed to heading back to school for at least one more season, hoping to grasp his hands around a national title that he feels his team is very close to achieving.
“It all starts at the beginning of the season,” Oshie said. “All goals we have at North Dakota are mostly generated off of team goals. First and foremost, we want to have a great season and win our league. Individual goals that come are just a bonus.”
But what if Oshie had a change of heart and wanted to give the pro level a shot right now?
“If he wants to change his mind, give me a call. Call collect, do whatever he wants to do,” Davidson said. “[But] we’re not an organization that’s going to try and pull somebody out of college if they’re not ready to. He’ll do what’s right for him.”
So for now, the Blues will sit and wait, hoping Oshie continues to turn heads at the University of North Dakota. He’s certainly got the attention of the Blues.
“It’s nice to see the support [the Blues] have in me and the belief they have in my ability,” Oshie said. “It’s great to have those kind of people behind you. I’m already loving the town, loving the fans and loving the rink, and especially the players. We’ve got a lot of great guys, and I’m definitely looking forward to (the future).”