COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Brock Boeser is finally able to relax at his home in Burnsville, Minn., even if only for a few days, before he heads to Grand Forks this weekend to begin his first year at the University of North Dakota. The UND incoming freshman forward hasn’t had much time at home this summer as his “offseason” has been full of hockey, hopping from city to city for combines, drafts and camps. He isn’t alone. Miami incoming freshman forward Jack Roslovic knows exactly how exhausting the summer before their first year of college hockey has been, as he’s been with Boeser each stop along the way.
Although Boeser and Roslovic’s paths have been very similar this summer, they were opponents last season in the United States Hockey League (USHL), Boeser with the Waterloo Blackhawks and Roslovic with the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP). This season they’ll again be rivals in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). And if all goes to plan, the 2015 NHL first-round draft picks will eventually be National Hockey League Western Conference foes when they turn pro.
The path to getting drafted included a week at the NHL Combine, which was held June 1-6 in Buffalo, N.Y., beginning their whirlwind summer. The first few days of the NHL Combine consisted of interviews with teams while on the final few days players went through on-ice training, medical exams and fitness testing. Both Boeser and Roslovic agreed it was a grueling process.
“It was pretty crazy. I interviewed with 28 of 30 teams,” Boeser said. “You only go through it once so I was just trying to enjoy everything. On testing day, it lived up to what everyone was saying about it. Other than that, I enjoyed it.”
Roslovic was spared so to speak, only having to go through 23 interviews with teams.
All the effort at the NHL Combine and all their years of hard work growing up playing hockey paid off at the end of June, however, when both heard their names called at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Fla. on June 26. Boeser heard his name called first by the Vancouver Canucks with the 23rd overall pick in the first round.
“I had a pretty good feeling I could go in the first round when the draft came. When we got there we had no idea where I would go,” Boeser explained. “We knew Vancouver really liked me, my advisor told me. When they got up we had a pretty good feeling I could be taken there and I was. I can’t explain the feeling. It was definitely a dream come true.”
Boeser was able to enjoy the moment with his mom and dad, brother and sister, his sister-in-law and some cousins, all of whom were in attendance at the BB&T Center for Boeser’s big day.
Roslovic was also in attendance with his own entourage, surrounded by his mom and dad, his sister, some cousins and uncles and his new coach this fall, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. He also had some friends and former teammates with him to help him relax.
Only two picks after hearing Boeser’s name called, Roslovic had his chance at center stage when the Winnipeg Jets selected him with the 25th pick of the first round. It marked the first time in the NCHC’s short history that two players were taken in the first round of the NHL Draft in the same year.
“I think that I knew my range was 20-40 so I knew anywhere in there was a possibility. I talked to Winnipeg three of four times and then the day before the draft and felt good about it,” Roslovic said. “I also talked to a few other teams right behind them. I had a feeling that I was (going to be taken by them) but I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. It’s what you do after the draft for the most part (that matters).”
For both players and families, it was a late, but exciting night. Neither left the building until after midnight that night as both had interview and team obligations to fulfill.
Once he got home around 1 a.m., Roslovic and his friends swam in the pool in the backyard of their rental house and sat on the edge of the dock relaxing, knowing the pressure was off and not having to worry about still being drafted on day two.
“We kind of used it as a family vacation more than anything really,” Roslovic said of the draft experience. “The goal obviously, and my dream for a while, has been to get drafted and play in the NHL. When my name got called it was a great feeling. Being in Florida with my family and being with the guys that were down there (at the draft), it was more fun for me and having more time to relax because it was such a busy summer with the combine first and then the draft. It was pretty stressful being down there, not knowing when (you’ll be called at the draft), so being with friends and family took some pressure off.”
Boeser and his family just grabbed a late bite to eat after the draft, but relaxed on the beach the next day after taking care of a few obligations on day two of the draft.
Once the excitement and hoopla of the draft subsided, reality set in and the real hard work began. Both players got their first taste of professional life soon after the Draft as each attended their team’s development camp.
Roslovic barely had time to switch out clothes in his suitcase as the Columbus, Ohio, native was home for just 24 hours after the Draft before heading northwest to Winnipeg for Jets Development Camp, which began on June 30 and lasted a week. At the camp, the Jets prospects went through on-ice and off-ice training, got to meet the coaches and learned about the Jets organization while also showing the Jets what they’re about.
“I think just watching the older guys. Watching guys like (Nikolaj) Ehlers and Andrew Copp. A lot of those good players, seeing what they do and their tendencies on and off the ice,” Roslovic said of his takeaway from development camp. “Learning from them and taking every word that the coach says and processing that in a way you can understand so you can bring it back to college next year and your game and everything off the ice as a person. It was definitely a big week.”
Boeser, meanwhile, had a few extra days at home after the draft before he headed even further west to Victoria, British Columbia, not far from Vancouver, for Canucks Development Camp, which ran from July 3-10. The Canucks camp had a similar feel to Jets camp with Boeser saying they were on the go all the time.
“We did on-ice and off-ice testing. Off-ice was lifting, body fat and a running test just to see where we’re at. On-ice we did sprinting and conditioning. Other than that we had practices throughout the week and had a 3-on-3 tournament,” Boeser recalled. “Once the week wrapped up we went over to Vancouver for the night and had a season ticket holder event, which was pretty cool to meet the fans there.”
Like Roslovic, Boeser was impressed with the work ethic and routine he noticed from the pros at camp. He also enjoyed the beautiful city of Vancouver after he had never been previously. Roslovic was also fond of his new professional home despite visiting it for the first time.
“It was a new place that I don’t know if I ever would have gone to if I wasn’t drafted there, but I was surprised by it,” Roslovic noted. “Some people say that it’s a smaller town. I got there and it was a small town but it was really nice. The fans have a lot to do with it as well. With them being so hockey-crazed it was pretty unbelievable.”
Following the NHL Development Camps, both players had a short amount of down time before packing their bags again, this time heading east to Lake Placid, N.Y. for the U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp. The duo was among 39 players invited to the USA Hockey-run camp back in June, along with Miami rising sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio and UND rising sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz. At the camp that ran from Aug. 1-8, the top under-20 players in the country tried out for the U.S. National Junior Team in hopes of representing the Stars and Stripes at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland in late December and early January.
At the camp, which was quite different and more relaxed than the NHL Development Camps, the players first competed against each other in intra-squad games before battling Finland and Sweden’s junior national teams in exhibition games each day. All four NCHC players made the initial round of cuts during the camp, allowing them to finish out the week. The final roster won’t be announced until December but both Boeser and Roslovic made strong impressions.
Boeser totaled four goals and a pair of assists in six games during the week, including a hat trick in a win over Sweden Aug. 3. Roslovic, meanwhile, tallied two goals and a trio of assists in his games. Schmaltz, who was on the U.S. Junior National Team last year, had a goal and an assist during the camp while Belpedio, who roomed with Roslovic at camp, chipped in two helpers.
“It was a comfortable camp for me. Some of the other guys who weren’t too familiar with USA Hockey, it might have been a little weird the first few days, but just having that familiarity knowing a lot of the people and the coaches and kind of knowing what USA Hockey’s all about made it a smooth camp for me,” Roslovic said. “I got to see a lot of my friends and enjoyed the week. It was tough because I hadn’t played a game in months, then to go from two months with no games to six games in eight days, that was a little bumpy but after the first game it smoothed out and I got in the zone again.”
While the final roster decision is still a few months away, both players know what it would mean to represent the United States at the World Junior Championship.
“It’s definitely an honor. It doesn’t come around a lot,” Boeser said of the opportunity. “Whenever it does come around, you try to take it all in and work your butt off because there’s a ton of other guys that’d like to be out there representing the USA. It just means a ton.”
“It’s always a great time putting on the jersey. It’s like nothing else,” Roslovic said. “Putting on your college jersey is great and putting on an NHL jersey is obviously unbelievable but the USA jersey is like nothing else. It’s your country so it’s definitely a little bit more special.”
Along with representing their country, both players also took in the history that occurred at Lake Placid with the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 as neither had been to Lake Placid previously.
“Just the rink, you see it in the movies. And the Olympic Training Center, where we met other athletes from luge, bobsled and skeleton. Just that whole thing is the U.S. and just being a part of your country and having the opportunity to get exposure to that kind of stuff is pretty cool,” Roslovic explained. “We didn’t do a ton of sightseeing but you kind of felt that whole feeling of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, you kind of felt a part of it.”
Although they didn’t interact much with the other Olympic athletes, they did eat with them in the dining room and watched them do some workouts to see how hard they train. Most of the talking was done amongst the hockey players at camp, however, including some chirping between guys entering their first year of college.
“The biggest one I have right now is Steven Ruggiero is always on me about the first game when we (Miami) play Providence. A little grudge match there after the upset last year (in the NCAA Tournament),” Roslovic said. “He’s been in my ear a lot but I think we can come out on top this time. Within the conference, Schmaltz and Boeser were there. We were giving it to them a little bit.”
Boeser downplayed it, wanting to save his talking for when Miami and UND meet on the ice in Grand Forks Nov. 13-14. He’s ready for the new season to start however, and be able to work on his game some more.
“The development side is great. The NCHC is one of the best, if not the best, conference in college hockey,” he said. “Playing for North Dakota, I’m excited to get up there and play in front of those fans. See how the season goes and try to win a national championship.”
“I got a little taste of college hockey last year (with the NTDP). It was pretty cool playing in those buildings like Miami and North Dakota. I can’t wait to get back in there,” Roslovic said. “The NCHC in my opinion is the best conference in college hockey and I think it’s going to be a grudge match. Playing college hockey and its schedule will be challenging but it’ll be fun.”
After enduring a long summer full of life-changing hockey, both players feel prepared for the next step and will incorporate what they learned this summer for the upcoming season.
“You just have to work super hard. You can’t take anything for granted,” Boeser concluded. “You just have to try and improve all aspects of the game. Work hard from there and try to get your goals accomplished.”
Both Boeser and Roslovic will see the puck drop on the 2015-16 season Oct. 3 when both UND and Miami host exhibition opponents.