COLUMBUS, OH - While it was considered a possibility since his recall from the Manitoba Moose on Monday, Jack Roslovic's NHL dream will now become a reality.
"Paul (Maurice) just said, 'you're in,'" Roslovic said. "I'm really excited. Being home, it makes it even better."
The story couldn't be more fitting. The 20-year-old Roslovic was born in Columbus, Ohio, and will make his NHL debut tomorrow night against the Blue Jackets, the very team he credits with sparking his interest in the game.
"I went to a couple games and saw some players, and I found a love for it," said Roslovic after today's 25-minute practice.
Video: PRACTICE | Jack Roslovic
While many of Roslovic's early memories of the game revolve around former Blue Jackets like Rick Nash and David Vyborny, the 2015 first round pick has connections with the current roster in Columbus as well. One of those is Zach Werenski, who Roslovic played with in 2013-2014 with the U.S.A National U17 team.
The 2015 first round pick started skating only a 25-minute drive from Nationwide Arena when he was four-years-old.
"My neighbours had a big pavement, shaped in a hockey rink drive way. I started up playing road hockey and learned the game, the ins and outs of game," said Roslovic. "I played goalie being the young guy. Just learning that way, I stepped on the ice around four. I just soaked it all in."
Head coach Paul Maurice said Roslovic has earned this opportunity. In 61 games with the Manitoba Moose, the young centre has 13 goals and 45 points - impressive numbers for a player in his first season as a professional.
"We've got a real skilled, excellent, strong skating centre ice man that's made the adjustment from amateur to pro quite well," said Maurice. "A lot of our young players that come in that skate really well, skate all the time, constantly. They need at times not to. Starting and stopping, and all the hard things that have to happen in a game, he's made great improvement in that area."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
Maurice and his family lived in the Columbus area prior to the move to Winnipeg. He said seeing a home-grown player like Roslovic make it to the NHL level can have a big impact on minor hockey players trying to follow the same path.
"As a father who was part of that here, saw the Columbus Blue Jacket program, and actually coached with the Columbus Blue Jacket special hockey team - and my kids did as well - I think they do a wonderful job with their kids in the younger program here," said Maurice.
"To start being able to produce players is so important, for us because we get a great player, but for the five-year-old kid in Columbus area to have somebody that's home grown to look up to. It's a great pay off."
Roslovic's parents are still season ticket holders in Columbus. So while those two tickets can be crossed off the list, Roslovic says he's still determining how many more family members he'll have in the crowd.
"There's a lot," he said with a smile. "I'm not too sure the number, but we'll get there."