Summer is not ordinarily the busiest time of the year for hockey players. Jack Dougherty, a Nashville Predators second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, is not most hockey players.
Dougherty, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound defenseman, had his summer take an eventful turn in late July, when he elected to leave the University of Wisconsin after one season to sign an entry-level contract with the Predators. Dougherty’s three-year contract will result in him having the chance to make Nashville’s roster in training camp; however, it’s expected that the 19-year-old will join the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks for at least one year of seasoning.
“Jamie Kompon, the coach in Portland, he’s been a part of [some] Stanley Cup teams [as an assistant with Los Angeles and Chicago],” Dougherty said. “He knows not only what it takes to get there, but also how to be successful. I have nothing but good things to say about the whole organization. I’m ready to get the season going.”
Signing his first professional contract and switching from collegiate to junior hockey is not the only reason this has been an eventful summer for Dougherty. He also spent the last week in Lake Placid, N.Y., at USA Hockey’s Evaluation Camp for the 2016 World Junior Championship. Although Dougherty didn’t survive the final roster cuts of the week, he still finds the experience of attending camp to be very valuable.
“I wanted to make that World Junior team for years now and it just didn’t happen,” Dougherty said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s fuel to prove people wrong that I’m a good enough player to belong on that team. Motivation is the one word I would use to describe it. Pure motivation.”
Until reporting to Portland in two weeks, Dougherty will be returning to his native Minnesota, where he’s looking forward to spending some time – he spent the early part of his summer in Madison training at the University of Wisconsin – with his family and friends.
“My path’s been a little unorthodox so far,” Dougherty said of switching to junior hockey after one year in college. “I can’t knock college. It was a great experience. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Ultimately, I think going to junior at this time is the right way to go for me in order to make it to the NHL and have a long career.”