DETROIT – For Riley Sheahan, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena means a lot more than just an opportunity to play in an NHL arena.
Sheahan, who was the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick in last June’s draft, is a 19-year-old sophomore forward at Notre Dame, returning to JLA for the first time since participating in Detroit’s prospects camp last summer.
“It’s kind of weird, actually,” said Sheahan of his return to JLA. “The guys are giving me some grief about it, but it’s awesome. It’s a great place, a lot of atmosphere, and just looking up at the names on the wall, there’s some great players who have played here, and it’s kind of cool to be in the same spot as they were.”
The Wings’ prospect has helped the No. 8 ranked Irish reach Friday’s CCHA semifinals, where they will take on the No. 6 Miami (Ohio).
Sheahan has posted four goals and 14 assists in 35 games this season. As a freshman, he recorded six goals and 11 assists in 37 games, despite starting the season as a 17-year-old.
Sheahan said that while he’s considered an NHL prospect by others, he knows he has a long way to go before making it to the Big Show.
“It’s cool being back here,” the native of St. Catharine’s, Ontario. “In the summer, it was a lot of fun being at rookie camp, and this is bringing back some memories of that. But right now I have more of a see-what’s-ahead-in-the-future feeling.”
However, that doesn’t mean Sheahan hasn’t been keeping an eye on the Wings this season.
“Oh definitely,” he said. “We have a couple big Wings’ fans on the team, so they can help me keep up to date with them, but yeah, I’m paying attention to what’s going on with them, definitely.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Sheahan said that he has no plans to meet with team management during this weekend’s games. He also said that life hasn’t changed too much since he was drafted, except for the occasional fan recognizing him on the street. As of now, he is just focused on playing against Miami and winning a CCHA championship.
“It’s going great,” Sheahan said of his second collegiate season. “We have a great group of guys; it’s been a lot of fun. We have a really close team, so hockey-wise, I feel like I’m progressing, and it’s getting more and more exciting as we come to The Joe and go through the playoffs. It’s been a lot of fun, and I can’t say any more good things about these guys.”