Forward Drew Larman was one of a handful of people hoping to hear their name called at the 2003 NHL Draft. As he sat through nine rounds, Larman heard a lot of names. Names like Nathan Horton, Ryan Getzlaf, Marc-Andre Fleury…all good players but the only name he really cared about was his own, a name that was never called.
|Center Drew Larman |
“It was definitely a set back,” Larman says on the phone from London, Ontario. “Obviously I wanted to get drafted, I mean that was my first priority, but I never let it discourage me (that I didn’t get drafted).”
His lack of discouragement meant that fans would get to see Larman in stints throughout the Panthers regular season last year. In hopes of expanding his role this season, Larman only has to look to the beginning of his career and experiences in vying for a larger roster presence.
Before the 2003 Draft, Larman had wrapped up his first season in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, posting 18 points (4-14-18) in 67 games. Despite going undrafted, Larman was invited to the Dallas Stars rookie camp for a try-out. While the experience was valuable he wasn’t signed.
“I never reevaluated playing hockey,” he says. “I always felt I had the talent and the work ethic to get to the next level and I just work as hard as I can and it’s worked out for the better so far.”
Larman returned to Sarnia for the 2003-04 season. He responded by posting career bests in every offensive category. He finished the season with 27 points (9-18-27) in 68 games, capped off with his first exposure to the post season, notching one assist in five games and helped the Sting win the division for the first time.
“I just focused on the next season and focused on helping the team I was on,” he says. “I just try to take it one shift at a time and try not to look too far ahead.”
At the very least, Larman deserved another invite to one of the 30 NHL teams, following his above average season, but the lockout of the 2004-05 season halted his hopes for another try-out and Larman again returned to the OHL.
That season he played in just 12 games with the Sting before heading to London, Ontario.
The London Knights hadn’t won the Memorial Cup or OHL Championship in their 40-year history. In 2005, that all changed. The team boasted a Canadian hockey league record 31-game win streak as they easily won the OHL. They then squared up against the Sidney Crosby-led Rimouski Oceanic in the Memorial Cup Finals, where London won 4-0. Larman played well in the postseason, posting 7 points (3-4-7) in 18 games. The momentum kept up as Larman got invited to Florida’s rookie camp following the season.
After pursuing his dream of playing in the pros for three years, Larman signed his first pro contract following a very strong rookie and training camp performance.
“There was a sign of relief and excitement,” Larman says of the contract. “I was happy I was given a three year look and I felt pretty secure.”
Now two year removed, Larman is hoping to find regular time on a roster that added three forwards in the off-season. He appeared in 16 games with the Panthers last season, scoring two goals. This off-season he has conditioned harder than ever as he is closely following team trainer Andy O’Brien’s very detailed workout regimen and even incorporating Pilates into his exercises for core strengthening and quickness.
Above all else though, he has the experience.
“I feel a lot more comfortable going in,” he says. “I gained a lot of experience from that situation (last season) so I’ve learned from that, and I am trying to take what I learned from it and utilize it into my summer program and get myself prepared to know exactly what I have to do to make the team.
“My first goal is to come in and do anything I can do to try and make the team. Just work hard. That’s the reason I was able to sign with them in the first place. It’s because I had a good camp and I know how important that is for a player. That’s what my main focus is, just coming in worry about myself and just worrying about what I can do on the ice and how I can contribute to the team’s success.”
His future, like most before, has a relative uncertainty. The good news is there are a lot of shifts between now and then, and in Larman’s world, the “then’s” just don’t exist.