Nolan De Jong was the Wild’s seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. After skating for his hometown team, the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League (BCHL), the defenseman is gearing up for his freshman season at the University of Michigan. He recently attended Minnesota Development Camp, where Wild.com Managing Editor Mike Doyle caught up to the prospect.
So you didn’t make it out to the Draft this year, how did you find out you were drafted by the Wild?
Actually, I was told by my family advisor (college players are not allowed to have agents), so I was having some dinner with family and friends, and watching the Draft on T.V. The seventh round comes rolling around and it looked like I wasn’t going to be drafted. All of a sudden I get a call and I took it and left the room. As I was leaving the room, I heard a bunch of celebrating in the back and my advisor told me I was drafted. It was a little bit different, but it was cool.
Who were you watching the Draft with?
My friend Shawn McBride, who I’ve grown up with and played hockey with since I was about five years old. We came up together and developed together and he’s playing in Victoria this year. And then another friend who’s probably going get drafted next year, Steen Cooper, who plays with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL. I grew up playing with and against him, too. So it was a couple of guys that are pretty close with me and I wanted to share that experience with them.
So you played in Victoria, your hometown, did you stay at home or do the billet thing?
That was kind of the reason behind me staying in Victoria. At least, as a 16-year-old playing junior hockey, being able to stay at home and make the transition to junior a little easier. Then obviously staying as a 17-year-old made a lot of sense. We had some new ownership coming in and a good group of guys and I’ll go off to college next year.
In the summertime when you’re hanging out with your buddies, what’s Victoria B.C. like? What do you do in your free time?
For me, a lot of it is just training and skating, and trying to enjoy the friends and family. But I’m pretty blessed to be from Victoria, it’s a beautiful city. You can go anywhere; there are no bad parts of town. We have the inner-harbor by the water and it’s just beautiful down there with nice hotels and the parliament building. Anywhere you go it’s a pretty beautiful city.
You’re right on the water, are you a fisherman?
(Laugh) No. I’m probably one of the worst fishermen.
Coming to Minnesota that might be something you need to work on with 10,000 lakes.
Yeah, I might. I could use some practice.
So you’re going to Michigan in the fall, what appealed to you about that program?
Well, there wasn’t a whole lot that didn’t appeal to me. It’s such a storied school. The schooling aspect is very appealing; they have a great business program there, which is what I’ll be taking. Then obviously the hockey is one of the best programs in the country, hands down. And the fit was really good, too. They have quite a few guys moving on, like Jacob Trouba and guys like that, taking the next step. The fit made sense, so hopefully I can go in and compete for a spot and playing time.
And it doesn’t hurt to go and play for a legendary coach like Red Berenson.
Oh, absolutely. I’ve talked to some of the guys that are going there now, and they’ve all said the coaching staff is unreal—they’ve all played and they all get the hockey lifestyle.
Were you able to see any football games in the Big House on your visit?
Unfortunately, no. When I took my visit it was the spring, so the sports were kind of shut down. But I got to see some softball during the national championships, so it was cool to see the environment of college athletics. I got to meet some of the guys and took a tour of the Big House and Yost and the athletic facilities, so that was pretty awesome.
Yeah, (Ann Arbor) is one of the better college towns around. Is it anything like Victoria?
There are parts that are similar; the downtown is kind of like Ann Arbor. When I went on my visit, you could walk everywhere. It’s a little college town with little shops and cafes everywhere you walk. It’s a great town and I’m excited to go there.
Are you excited about living in the dorms, maybe a little worried? Have you met your roommate?
I’ve touched base with my roommate (fellow hockey player at Michigan). He seems like a pretty relaxed guy. I’m excited to meet him. I’m excited to meet him and don’t have too many worries, and don’t know how much I’ll be there. After the season, we’ll rent a house with a bunch of the guys on the team. I’ll take it for what it is and try to enjoy it. It’s part of college life.