|(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)
We weren’t even dressed yet when it truly hit me that I was about to practice for my hometown team. We were coming from our warmup in the gym, and I saw the fans out there in the stands at HARBORCENTER. I was like, 'I thought today was a practice day, not a scrimmage.'
I think in practice you could notice that I was a little nervous during the first couple drills. I was the first one out on the ice, for example, but I didn’t want to go out too early and be that guy that goes out way earlier than everyone else. Luckily Justin Bailey was right behind me and the coaches were out there waiting.
Even in Mississauga – and I think it’s part of the reason why I'm here now – I've always been the first guy out on the ice and the last one off. It's something I take pride in. If I can step on the ice and do it in that gear, then it becomes pretty special.
In that first moment when I stepped onto the ice with the gear, I saw my brothers over in the stands. I kind of smiled at them saying, you know, 'We're here now. But there's a long way to go.' You have to keep that in mind, especially when you're picked by your hometown team.
We had a party at Riverworks after the Draft. Friends and family came there to support me, but it's a pretty big place so there was another party going on too. A graduation party, maybe. I was wearing the jersey and hat that I was given at the Draft, and I just remember standing there with my arms out and it seemed like there were about 50 million people walking up to take pictures and stuff.
My dad did of good job of letting me know to just soak those moments in, because after this camp, after the next few weeks or once the season starts, I'm sure I'm going to be a nobody again. So even after about Day 6 or 7 when you're kind of like, 'enough congrats, enough pictures,' you do enjoy it for all those days because you know in a few days it's going to be gone.
To get it back, I'm going to have to prove that I'm a sleeper pick, and doing so won't take a lot of sleep. I'm a late pick and a local guy. Even Alex Nylander, who's a first-round pick, has a lot of work to do to crack a spot in the lineup. It might take me a little longer than usual but I'm completely fine with that.
Once camp's over I'm going to start driving in every day and working out at the Sabres' facilities with their staff on and off the ice. They're able to develop me in their hands, mold me into whatever they want me to become.
They can tell me to be there at 5 a.m. and I'll be there at 4. I mean, it's the Buffalo Sabres, and I'm from Buffalo. It's the NHL, and that's where I'm trying to go.