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NHL Draft

Cancer survivor thrilled to meet top prospects

Kyle Junkunc, a defenseman at Libertyville High in Illinois, and family get VIP treatment at NHL Draft

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- As cancer survivors, Kyle Junkunc and his sister, Ashley, of Libertyville, Illinois, know the importance of hard work and perseverance.

The siblings received a rare opportunity when Discover, through its long-term relationship with the NHL and Make-A-Wish, gave them and their immediate family VIP access for a meet-and-greet with a few of the top prospects eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas aboard the Shoreline Sightseeing Boat Tour at the Navy Pier on Thursday.

Kyle, 16, and Ashley, 18, were joined by their brother, Andrew, and parents Dawn and Erik. They took photos and had hats signed by each player, including Brandon center Nolan Patrick, Halifax center Nico Hischier, Eden Prairie center Casey Mittelstadt, Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Portland center Cody Glass, Mississauga right wing Owen Tippett and Dynamo Moscow left wing/center Klim Kostin.

 

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Patrick, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, took a picture with the family. Glass, No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, stood up to get a picture with Kyle after meeting him.

"These are things I'm so happy to do for others and I really appreciate Kyle's passion for the game," Glass said.

The family, who live 45 minutes outside Chicago, will be present for the draft. The first round at United Center takes place Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Kyle, who has played hockey for 13 years and is a junior defenseman for Libertyville High School, will also be considered a prospect on Friday and take his own rookie photo in the official NHL photo studio where all drafted players go to have a picture taken with their team jersey.

"I know what it takes to get here and the work [the prospects] put in," Kyle said. "I've played hockey for 13 years and it would have been amazing to play in the NHL. So many players work their tails off to get to that level."

Kyle was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma when he was 13. He went through three months of chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free in December 2014.

"I played hockey my whole life so it's just awesome to meet the best of the best prospects," Kyle said. "I love this game; it's awesome. My whole family are hockey fans so it was pretty cool to experience this. I'm a big Chicago Blackhawks fan."

Two years after Kyle's battle, his sister was diagnosed with the same form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She required long hospital stays during chemotherapy treatments and after five months was also declared cancer-free, in August 2016.

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