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Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass closer to fulfilling NHL dream

After facing adversity on, off ice, center became first draft pick in Vegas history

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Judy Glass made sure there was food on the table for her son, Jeff, and his two boys, her beloved grandsons.

She was there for the practical aspects of family life -- getting the boys to school on time, for one -- and emotional aspects too, a nurturing figure at a critical time following her son's divorce.

"She was probably my No. 1 fan other than my dad and my brother … always believed in me," said Cody Glass, who was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas. "We moved in when I was 9 or 10, around that age. She took us in just to get us back on our feet."

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights open first development camp]

 

Cody Glass was speaking Tuesday shortly after his first day with the Golden Knights, at the first day of their first development camp. He was eager to praise those who helped him get to this point: his father, Jeff, his older brother, Matthew, and his late grandmother Judy, to whom he dedicated his 2016-17 junior season.

Video: Golden Knights draft F Cody Glass No. 6

The firsts for Glass, an 18-year-old center from Portland of the Western Hockey League, continue to come at an almost dizzying pace after many long stretches of adversity.

He will always have his place in Vegas hockey: the first draft pick in franchise history.

That was Friday in Chicago. 

By Tuesday, Glass was on the ice at Las Vegas Ice Center, a rink known for hosting Wayne Gretzky's fantasy camp.

Only this was not a fantasy for Glass.

"Being here, sometimes you think it's a dream because you always dream of this as a little kid," he said. "Now that you're finally here, it's so surreal."

Last summer, Glass was cut from Canada's under-18 team. He returned home to Winnipeg, and shortly thereafter, Judy died from cancer.

"She was a big part of his life," Jeff Glass said. "I think that really took his mind off getting cut and he focused on life, in general, and live every day and keep pushing. When she passed, he just thought, 'I'm just going to show everybody and prove everybody wrong.' And he wanted to dedicate the year to her, and he did it. I'm impressed with how he took everything on after getting cut. And a week later, the closest woman in his life passed away."

Video: Cody Glass talks with NHL Tonight

Hockey often has been a place of refuge for Glass.

"I was going through a lot of adversity at the start of the year and the only escape I had was hockey," he said. "When I'm on the ice, there's nothing else you worry about, and during my season I really wanted to prove Team Canada wrong."

There are people who come around at precisely the right time, and Portland general manager and coach Mike Johnston was that person for Glass this season. Johnston not only has a keen hockey mind but is considered one of the best teachers in the game. Portland was a young team, and Johnston kept giving Glass more and more responsibility.

"Maybe on a better team he would have been behind other people, but not on our team," Johnston said. "That was good for him. He got prime ice time. Prime power play. I just think for a big, lanky kid like that (6-foot-2, 178 pounds), as he grows and gets stronger, his game starts to round out."

Johnston, who coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for 110 games from 2014-15, compared Glass to Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen, who played two seasons in Portland. Glass kept climbing up NHL Central Scouting rankings with an especially strong second half of the season and finished with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 69 games.

Video: Cody Glass on joining the Golden Knights

"He just gave me every opportunity in the world, let me play my game and made me a confident player," Glass said. "The trust goes into confidence, and both those things put together is something you don't get too much. Confidence is a huge thing in my game."

Said Jeff Glass: "[Johnston] is good with the younger guys because they're like sponges and they wanted to learn." 

Johnston said he frequently detects a difference in a young player after he returns from his first NHL development camp, and he expects the same from Glass when he comes back to Portland next season.

"He has a big upside," Johnston said. "To find centers with some size that move the puck and skate, he needs more power in his first three strides. But he's a good skater, he just needs to get a little more pop in his stride."

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