The title of “Mr. Irrelevant” is handed out each year to the player chosen with the final selection in the NFL Draft. The Buffalo Sabres didn’t own the last overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, but Brad Navin – Buffalo’s sixth and final pick in this year’s draft -- could prove to be anything but irrelevant.
Navin, who turned 19 last month, scored 52 points (29+23) in 14 games during an injury-shortened senior season with his hometown Waupaca (WI) High School. This followed a 92-point (53+39) junior campaign that put him on the radar of NHL scouts who projected him to be selected somewhere around the fifth round. But for Navin, he very easily could’ve become a tiny blip on that radar when he suffered an MCL sprain in January.
“It was a bummer for sure. Having to sit out for those final three months was tough. Nobody likes to get hurt, especially when I knew there was a chance I could drafted,” said Navin, a center who already clocks in at a sturdy 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds. “It was rough having to sit on the sidelines and watch my teammates. A lot of guys stepped up in my absence and we still did well as a team; I was proud of them for that.”
The injury came on the heels of Navin turning down an opportunity to play for the Sioux City Musketeers in the heavily-scouted United States Hockey League (USHL). Luckily for Navin, he’d already caught the eye of NHL scouts while playing for Team Wisconsin in the Minnesota Elite League. He scored 30 points in 24 games with Team Wisconsin in the fall, and was only held off the scoresheet on just seven occasions.
“I decided to stay and play with Team Wisconsin because I thought I’d get the same exposure playing them as I would in the USHL. It was tough not to go to Sioux City, but even with the injury it worked out for me in the end. The Minnesota Elite League has a really high-tempo pace, and it was really beneficial for my game to play at that level.”
Scouts rave about Navin’s size and skating, but he still believes he has some work to do when he enters the University of Wisconsin as a freshman this fall. Navin knows that there’s more to hockey than just being able to regularly find the back of the net.
“I’ve always been told I have a good shot, and scoring is something that has come naturally to me,” explains Navin, who would like to pattern his game after San Jose’s Joe Pavelski. “But my work in the defensive zone will have to improve, along with learning how to use my size better to win the one-on-one battles.”
Just like every player at this week’s development camp, Navin can’t stop raving about everything he’s already learned in just the first three days.
“When I got drafted and they told me I was coming out here I was seriously shocked. Especially when they tol d me it was taking place just a couple of weeks after the draft. Everything about this camp has been outstanding, it’s an awesome learning experience. They’ve done a great job of teaching me what to work on during the season in order to get my play to the next level.” The final day of on-ice workouts are scheduled to begin Friday morning at 9:45 a.m. Intra-squad scrimmages are set for both Saturday and Sunday at Dwyer Arena from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.