|Senators defenceman Matt Carkner still fondly remembers the day when the Montreal Canadiens made him a second-round pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft in Boston (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Ten years later, Matt Carkner
finally got his chance to live the National Hockey League dream.
The opportunity every young player in Canada envisions almost from the day he first laces up his skates and begins firing a rubber disc down a frozen sheet of water.
It was a thought that was surely dancing in the head of the native of nearby Winchester back on June 26, 1999, when the Montreal Canadiens made him a second-round pick (58th overall) in the NHL Entry Draft, held that year at the FleetCenter (now TD Garden) in Boston.
“When the draft finally comes, it’s overwhelming to hear your name picked and to be a draft pick in the NHL,” Carkner, 29, said in recalling one of the most special moments in the life of a teenage hockey hopeful. “It was just an amazing time in my hockey career. It was definitely a great memory and I’m sure all these kids going to the draft now are feeling the same thing.”
For the 6-4 Carkner, just getting to play in the Ontario Hockey League rated as a thrill. But he impressed enough during two seasons with the Peterborough Petes that he began to catch the eyes of scouts around the NHL.
“Even getting to play in the OHL … I was never really a flashy player and no one ever said that I was going to be an NHL player or anything,” said Carkner. “But I developed kind of quickly when I went to the OHL, so it all happened kind of fast, getting projected in the scouting rankings and all that kind of stuff, playing in the Top Prospects Game.”
Carkner made sure he savoured every step of the process on the road to his draft day.
“There was a lot of buildup to the draft,” he said. “I definitely had a lot of nerves going into the draft and doing all the fitness testing and interviews and all that kind of stuff. There’s so much involved in scouting and drafting now, it’s amazing.
"There was a lot of buildup to the draft. I definitely had a lot of nerves going into the draft and doing all the fitness testing and interviews and all that kind of stuff. There’s so much involved in scouting and drafting now, it’s amazing. It definitely was an awesome time, just getting to go to NHL arenas and doing certain tests and just seeing the facilities and that kind of stuff." - Matt Carkner
“It definitely was an awesome time, just getting to go to NHL arenas and doing certain tests and just seeing the facilities and that kind of stuff.”
But as Carkner learned first-hand, being an NHL draft pick and an NHL player are two vastly different things. The big blueliner toiled in the American Hockey League for eight seasons before the Senators — the team closest to his home town, as it turned out — gave him the full-time opportunity he’d worked so hard for so many years to achieve.
“It’s a small step toward making it,” Carkner said of being drafted by an NHL team. “At least for me, it was. I was drafted in ’99 and played in 2009. It was a 10-year process for me to get into the NHL.”
As it turned out, Carkner fared much better than most who were selected ahead of him in 1999. Only seven first-rounders from that draft were on NHL rosters during the 2009-10 season, most notably Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks, who went second and third overall that year.
The next crop of future hockey talent will take its first step toward the big dream on June 25-26, when the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Senators currently own picks in the first (16th overall), third (76), fourth (106), sixth (161) and seventh (196) rounds.