BUFFALO - Terik Parascak has come a long way over the past 12 months.

In fact, you could call his rise meteoric.

The winger from Lethbridge started the season as a raw rookie with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.

And now, he’s here at the NHL Scouting Combine, as NHL Central Scouting’s 15th-ranked North American skater for the upcoming Draft in Las Vegas.

That’s the type of attention a 105-point rookie season, and a trip to the third round of the WHL playoffs, will get you.

“It’s been a crazy year for me, obviously being my first year in the Western League and not knowing quite too much of what to expect,” Parascak said Tuesday between interviews with NHL clubs at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center. “Opportunities like this, I mean 12 months ago probably wasn’t thinking of that. It’s an honour to be here.”

Parascak is here on the strength of a season that saw him lead all WHL rookies in scoring, finishing eighth overall among the league’s top point-getters, too.

One of three Cougars to surpass the 100-point mark, Parascak was a huge reason for Prince George’s successful run to the conference final - a first for the franchise since 2007.

Not bad for a kid picked 76th-overall in the WHL Draft in 2021.

Last spring, Parascak got the call to the Cougars for a month-long foray into the post-season, a learning experience he used as a springboard toward making the full-time jump to major junior hockey last fall.

“Just being around the team for the playoff run they had gave me a lot of confidence, knowing the guys and knowing the group,” he said. “Coming into this year, it was easy to get going early like that, having a lot of good guys to play with, great coaching staff and organization.

“(I) just kind of took the opportunity I had and tried to run with it.”

"Took the opportunity and tried to run with it"

With all that success on the ice - Parascak was named WHL Rookie of the Month three times this past season - came attention off it.

And that, he admits, was a learning experience, too.

“It’s hard when you get put into the spotlight a little bit like I did, not really having that attention before, kind of being considered a top prospect,” he said. “Definitely a learning experience for me, I definitely got used to it, you’ve just got to block out that noise, enjoy the whole process and enjoy every day, doing what I love to do.”

And now, just a week after turning 18 years of age, he finds himself among the 100 invitees to the NHL Combine.

Needless to say, he’s soaking it all in.

“It’s obviously super-cool to be able to talk to all these teams, all the big names that you know and see all the players that you hear about all the time,” said Parascak. “The European guys, the U.S. guys, you see some of the Canadian guys throughout the year. I couldn’t be more grateful to be here.”

But back in Prince George, he’s grateful, too, for the help of his teammates.

Fellow forwards Riley Heidt and Koehn Ziemmer went through this process a year ago - Heidt was selected in the second round last year by Minnesota, Ziemmer in the third round by Los Angeles.

Both have proven to be valuable sounding boards for Parascak, who’s hoping to join the ranks of drafted Cougars come the end of the month.

“Those guys were a huge help to me this year, just having those guys in the room to be able to talk to about this stuff,” he said. “They went through it, and they had their ups and downs with their experiences, they’ve been through it all on their own.

“To be able to talk to those guys and have them help me out, it was so important for me this year.”

Parascak’s whirlwind year will culminate in Las Vegas June 28-29 at the NHL Draft, where that hard work and self-growth could well result in a lifelong dream coming true, both for him and his family.

“(My) parents, grandparents, my sister will be there too and lots of extended family will be there,” he said of the cheering section he’ll have on hand at the Sphere.

“It’ll be a super-cool experience.”