For Ben Hemmerling, being drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights was an undeniable dream realized.

A day every young hockey player hopes to reach, Hemmerling wasn’t even sure he was going to be selected to join an NHL club. But at the end of the day, after his name was called by the Vegas Golden Knights, the young winger from Sherwood Park, Alberta had reached a milestone that was the culmination of years of dedication and hard work.

"It was one of the best moments of my life,” said Hemmerling. "I didn’t know where or if I was going to get drafted so, leading up to it, I was nervous. But seeing my name on that draft board was a super special moment and a day I’ll never forget.”

Hemmerling’s hockey journey to being drafted by the Golden Knights began in his hometown, just outside Edmonton, before he went the academy route to grow his skills. After being selected by the Everett Silvertips in the third round of the 2019 Western Hockey League (WHL) bantam draft, he entered one of the best developmental leagues in the world at 16 years old.

"I've just been really fortunate with great coaches and really good support from my family," said Hemmerling. “I wouldn't be where I am today without my family and all the coaches, friends, and relationships I've built along the way."

The 2022 sixth round (177th overall) pick credits a lot of the growth throughout his junior career to the coaching he received, especially from longtime Silvertips bench boss Dennis Williams. Hemmerling thrived in an environment where every opportunity had to be earned through a tireless work ethic. The veteran coach helped mold the winger into a prolific scorer, but just as importantly, instilled invaluable qualities and a perspective that allowed Hemmerling to evolve into a successful leader in Everett.

"He's one of those guys that you have to earn everything with, and I really respect that about him,” said Hemmerling. “There are no freebies with him. He got everything out of me. He's a really great guy, and honestly, just a good friend. Everything about him is first class and he’s just such a great coach, a great leader and a great mentor for me for my four years in Everett."

While Williams provided mentorship, Hemmerling also attributed the support of lifelong friends as important to his success, particularly Jordan Gustafsson--a fellow Vegas Golden Knights prospect. Hemmerling and Gustafsson's bond dates back to their childhoods growing up in the same local hockey programs in Strathcona County, Alberta.

"Me and Gus, we've known each other since we were four or five years old, played together throughout our years there in minor hockey league," said Hemmerling. "Me and him are pretty close, we train together in the summers, he's one of my best buddies. I'm looking forward to getting on the ice with him and seeing what we can do out there."

Following similar paths from kids falling in love with the game to drafted prospects, Hemmerling and Gustafsson now get to pursue their NHL dreams as part of the same organization. The opportunity to experience this journey together after over 15 years of friendship is not lost on Hemmerling, who knows the value of keeping friends by your side during the mental grind of a long hockey season.

That strong support system helped fuel a breakout 2023-24 campaign for the winger. Hemmerling led Everett with 91 points (30G, 61A) in 65 games while also helping guide the Silvertips to a fourth-place finish in the WHL’s Western Conference. His stellar play earned him the team's MVP award.

"I thought I was more confident this year with the puck, more of a driver than a complimentary winger," said Hemmerling. "I thought I drove a line and was more of a threat when the puck was on my stick. I like to shoot the puck. I like to make plays, so I felt like this season showed that."

Hemmerling's scoring ability was a big part of his success, but his intangibles as a leader also shone through this past season. Perhaps most impressive was the way the young forward elevated his leadership qualities after being named team captain alongside his teammate and friend, Austin Roest.

"It was super special to be a part of that group," Hemmerling said. "I like to think of myself as a glue guy. Super vocal, energetic in the room, I like to joke around with the guys, but I also know when to dial it in and get ready for the game."

Hemmerling struck a balance of keeping the locker room atmosphere light and fun, while also demanding focus and intensity when it was time to get down to business. His "glue guy" mentality transcended on-ice play, creating a cohesive environment that allowed Everett's talented roster to maximize its potential and reach the 2024 WHL Playoffs.

Another defining moment for the young forward came in November of 2023 when he inked his entry-level contract with the Golden Knights organization. After years of hard work, Hemmerling was officially on his way to realizing his dream of becoming a professional hockey player. With his deal secured, he could focus solely on continuing to improve his game and the preparation for the jump to pro hockey.

"It was an unreal experience to sign my first NHL contract," Hemmerling said. "I'll never forget that day when I signed it with my family and my coach there in his office. I’m super, super grateful."

With his junior career now in the rearview mirror, Hemmerling has his sights set firmly on making the transition to the professional ranks. As he looks ahead to his pro career, the young winger has set goals for himself.

"For me, it’s just trying to get bigger, stronger, faster. I know it's a bit of a cliché but for me it's just growing my game as much as I can, and hopefully, earning a spot at the pro level next year."