At 7:45 p.m. Friday, Griffin Reinhart’s life was changed forever when Islanders General Manager Garth Snow walked up to the podium at the 2012 NHL Draft and welcomed the young defenseman to the Long Island. Following pictures on stage with owner Charles Wang and other front office executives, Reinhart proceeded to enter the madness of draft day in the form of autograph signings, photo shoots, interviews, and even phone calls from new teammates John Tavares and Travis Hamonic.
This madness, though, is all part of what a few Islanders believe will be the best day of Reinhart’s life. Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson, all former first-round picks, have walked in the same shoes that Reinhart currently wears.
“He’s having the time of his life right now,” Strome, who the Islanders selected fifth overall in 2011, said. “It’s a huge day in your life and it’s a day you’ll never forget.”
Strome also offered advice to the organization’s newest addition.
“Enjoy everything you can because the moment doesn’t last too long,” he said.
Backstage, so much goes on that it creates a blur for the players.
“There was not much time you could talk and relax because you were just surrounded by media and other people,” Niederreiter, who the Islanders selected fifth overall in 2010, said. “It’s a very happy moment and just an amazing feeling.”
Nelson described the backstage activities as an honor in itself.
“It’s special for kids each and every year,” Nelson said.
By the time most draftees get a chance to check their cell phone, they usually find themselves bombarded with missed calls and text messages.
“I had a ton of messages from friends which took me quite a bit of time to reply to,” Nelson added.
“I didn’t even call anyone, I was getting calls,” Strome said, laughing. “I left my Twitter notifications on so my emails were going crazy and my phone battery died pretty quickly.”
While the post-selection activities are a whirlwind, the build up to the draft is slow and nerve-wracking.
It’s very hectic, exciting and the best day of your life. - Ryan Strome
“It actually took forever,” Niederreiter said. “You were waiting and waiting the whole day ‘til seven o’clock and then just hoping you hear your name get called as soon as possible.”
Unlike Niederreiter and Strome, Nelson had a longer wait, being selected with the 30th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
“I think it adds to the excitement, not knowing where and when you’re going and then all of a sudden hearing your name get called,” he said. “There a lot of emotions and obviously a lot of happiness.”
When the last interview is completed, the last puck is signed and the last photo is taken, only then can the players truly sit back, relax and enjoy some time with those that matter most, their family.
“It’s all happiness as soon as you’re back in the hotel with your family, reflecting on what happened,” Niederreiter said.
A year or two removed from their draft days, the three players still hold fond memories, despite the craziness they experienced.
When asked for one sentence to describe the draft day experience, Strome stated simply, “It’s very hectic, exciting and the best day of your life.”