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by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

Not every National Hockey League draft story involves top-end prospects, television cameras and the promise of fame and glory as an NHL star.

Sometimes draft stories involve young men hunched over their computers or staring intently at television screens thousands of miles from the actual draft hoping against hope that someone, anyone, will think of them and speak their name aloud.

Like Adam Cracknell back in June of 2004.

In his parents' home in Victoria, British Columbia, Cracknell regularly hit refresh on his computer as the final rounds of the 2004 draft moved quickly to a close.

He recalled how then Calgary GM and coach Darryl Sutter would drop in on Cracknell's junior team, the Kootenay Ice, coached by Sutter's brother Brent. And how at one point Darryl Sutter told Cracknell that if he was still available late in the draft he'd make sure to pick him.

"I wasn't really that nervous," Cracknell said in a recent interview. "I didn't know what to expect."

Cracknell was a good player on a good team, but hardly the kind of player that created much of a buzz as the draft approached.

And you know, talk is cheap. Maybe Sutter told that same story to a handful of 18-year-olds.

Except for the Sutters, hockey royalty, words are rarely cheap.

And so it was that Cracknell refreshed his screen one more time and saw that the Calgary Flames had selected him with the 279th pick in the 2004 draft.

"It was an indescribable feeling," Cracknell said.

A little while later Sutter called.

"He said, 'Hey Cracks, just wanted to let you know we selected you in the 9th round.'" Cracknell recalled.

Celebrate? Of course. Why not?

"I felt like a first-rounder," Cracknell said and you can feel the smile at the memory across the distance.

There was an impromptu barbecue with friends and family and then Cracknell got to work making sure that seeing his name appear on the computer screen wasn't the end, but the beginning.

We heard this sentiment repeated in conversation with the Dallas Stars' amateur scouting staff at the recent draft combine in Buffalo.

Sure, the annual draft of young men from around the world by the NHL's now 31 teams is pivotal to any franchise's long-term success, but where a player is drafted is not who they are.

"I wasn't going to let it define me," Cracknell said.

Being selected by the Flames was exciting, but the fact he wasn't picked until 279th also served as a great motivator moving forward.

"I used that as motivation to try and prove to some teams that they should have picked me," said Cracknell, now 31.

How late is the 279th pick? There isn't even a 9th round at the draft anymore.

How little does it matter? Patric Hornqvist was the last player selected, 230th, dead last, in the 2005 draft and earlier this week scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for Pittsburgh for his second straight Stanley Cup win.

Good to his word, Cracknell didn't let his late pick define him or limit him. That said, the journey to becoming a popular member of the Stars' lineup was not without its jagged turns and occasional circular patterns.

His minor pro tour included stops in Omaha, Moline (Illinois), Las Vegas, Peoria, Chicago (the American Hockey League Wolves), and Springfield.

There were NHL stops in St. Louis, Columbus, Vancouver, and Edmonton prior to his arrival last season in Dallas.

There was even a brief stop with the Los Angeles Kings after the Kings won their second Stanley Cup in 2014, which was particularly memorable as Sutter, then coach of the Kings, stopped in surprise as he spotted Cracknell in a locker room prior to the 2014-15 season.

"What the heck are you doing here?" he asked.

Cracknell never ended up playing for Sutter as he was claimed on waivers by Columbus before the start of the season.

Still, Sutter always managed to share a few words of encouragement, or at the very least a knowing wink when the two crossed paths.

"He's a man of his word," Cracknell said. "I always thank Darryl every time I see him. He always believed in me, even when I wasn't on his team."

One morning during the 2010-11 season, the big winger recalled getting a call from Peoria head coach Jared Bednar, currently head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. It happened to be the morning after the team's rookie party and Cracknell, a leader on the team, worried something had happened connected to the party.

Instead Bednar, who had, coincidentally, lived in the Cracknell home for a season when Bednar was playing junior hockey in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, had other news.

"He said, you're going to the show," Cracknell said. "I was like; what? I said, who are we playing? He said, 'You're going to Detroit. You're going to Hockeytown."

Cracknell had grown up a fan of the Red Wings and specifically Hall of Fame captain Steve Yzerman.

Cracknell's parents flew in for the game. So did his best pal, a longtime Red Wings fan who showed up in a Red Wings jersey.

His Blues teammates hid his helmet during warmups so Cracknell went helmetless.

The night was surreal, a weird confluence of emotions that made Cracknell think he could die a happy man having played in the NHL but which also provided a powerful intoxicant that made him want more and more.

"You wanted that moment to never end," Cracknell said.

He hit the goal post on his first shift and Nicklas Lidstrom had his first career hat-trick against the Blues in Cracknell's NHL debut.

It wasn't Hollywood but it was timeless.

Cracknell recalled how veteran teammates like David Backes, now in Boston, made him feel welcome and helped him transition from life outside the dream to living the dream.

"It's one thing to make the NHL, but the next thing is to stay in the NHL," Cracknell said.

Those moments, all of them perhaps, have made Cracknell sensitive to what younger teammates are going through. And he doesn't wait to be approached for advice.

"I think I'm more of the guy that approaches," Cracknell explained. "As a young kid coming into the room you don't want to feel like you're being a headache or a nuisance."

He recalled last year playing with Jason Dickinson, the 29th overall pick in 2013, when the youngster joined the Stars for a few games. Cracknell gathered Dickinson and winger Justin Dowling together to chat before a game against Tampa in Florida.

"We just had a bit of a line meeting," Cracknell said. "Just tried to hopefully settle his nerves a little bit."

When we chat, Cracknell is preparing to travel with his wife and newborn daughter, the couple's first, to Australia for a goodwill hockey trip to help raise awareness about head trauma and concussions.

Having played for new Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis and having crossed paths with new starting netminder Ben Bishop, Cracknell is full of anticipation and optimism for the coming season.

When last season ended "it was pretty depressing," Cracknell admitted.

After a 45-minute chat with Hitchcock, he believes players are in for a bit of a surprise.

"You're going to have to sacrifice a lot more the way Hitch wants to play," Cracknell said.

It's not going to be easy. But, if there's one thing a guy drafted 279th overall understands implicitly, it is that it's not supposed to be easy.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

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