Getting drafted into the NHL is a dream come true for young hockey players and a moment they'll never forget. The draft evokes images of prospects walking across the stage, but that only makes up a small percentage of prospects experiences.
As Reece Newkirk, Felix Bibeau and Cole Coskey's draft day stories show, there's a lot of variance in how a player finds out they got drafted, but that doesn't make it any less special.
Take Newkirk for instance. The Islanders 2019 fifth-round pick (147th overall) was out swimming with his pals in his backyard in his hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan during the draft on Saturday. When Newkirk went inside to charge his phone, he found his parents ecstatically screaming and redirected his attention to the television where he saw his name pan across the screen.
"It was a pretty proud moment," Newkirk said following the first practice of the Islanders Mini Camp on Tuesday morning. "I was so happy. Everything you work for; you're goal in life is just to make it here. The work's not done. I'm looking forward to my future here."
Video: Isles Mini Camp 2019: Day 1
Newkirk didn't exactly plan a draft party, but fortunately for him, he was boosted by the company of his friends and family, who were all overjoyed for the 18-year-old. Newkirk had just wrapped up his second season in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks, where the team finished ninth in the league and fourth in the Western Conference. The 5-foot-11, 172-pound center put up 59 points (23G, 36A) in 68 regular season games.
Newkirk wasn't the only Isles prospect to be caught off guard. Coskey was playing a few rounds of golf with friends in Chicago when his agent called to notify him that he'd been drafted by the Islanders in the seventh round (209th overall).
"Honestly, it was a little surprising," Coskey said. "But I'm pretty thankful for it...It's been a long ride and it's not over yet."
Upon his arrival at mini camp, Coskey looked forward to seeing two familiar faces in his Saginaw Spirit teammates Bode Wilde and Blade Jenkins. Coskey, a 20-year-old right winger had just completed his fourth season in the OHL. Coskey posted a career-high year with 63 points (31G, 32A) in 52 games, as Saginaw advanced to Game Seven of the OHL Western Conference Final.
"Bode is one of my good friends and so is Blade," Coskey said. "It's awesome to have them show me the ropes."
Like Coskey, Felix Bibeau had a familiar face at mini camp in Noah Dobson, who was the 12th-overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, to usher him around his first day on the Long Island.
Unlike Coskey and Newkirk, Bibeau was watching the draft with his family back in Quebec when he was selected 178th overall on Saturday. After being passed over in a previous draft, his emotions got the better for him when the Islanders called him.
"I was home with my family," Bibeau recalled. "I was not expecting to be drafted honestly. The scout from Vancouver called me and said, 'You're getting drafted.' I started crying. I was so happy...I have no words really for the feeling [of being drafted], it was honestly unreal. I was not expecting it. I think that's the best part of it, that I was not expecting it. So, when it happens it was bigger.
"I'm 20-years-old, you know? It's not the normal path," Bibeau added. "I'm really proud to be an Islander."
Bibeau and Dobson, teammates on the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, shared the incredible experience of winning a Memorial Cup together. Dobson had nothing but good things to say about his pal and new Islanders prospect who earned a Memorial Cup all-star selection. Bibeau led all players at the Memorial Cup with five goals including one in the Memorial Cup Final. During the regular season, the 6'0, 185 lbs. center had 69 points (28G, 41A).
"It's pretty special," Dobson said of seeing Bibeau get drafted. "As a 20-year-old you're never sure if you're going to get drafted or not. He had a great year and was a big part of our team. I got to know him lots over the second-half [of the season]. He's a great guy and I'm really happy to have him here. If he needs anything, I'll hand him over the experience I got from last year for sure."
The draft day stories may vary from guy-to-guy, but the excitement and eagerness remain a constant throughout. Newkirk, Bibeau and Coskey made that pretty clear on Tuesday.