Nick Walters received a taste of what life could be like should he achieve his dream.
While attending last weekend’s NHL draft combine in Toronto, he and Everett Silvertips teammate Ryan Murray found themselves the center of a crowd.
“As you’re walking out of the hotel there’d be a group of people, super fans and paparazzi who wanted pictures or autographs of all the players at the combine,” Walters recounted. “I remember one time I was walking to Subway with Ryan and we were swarmed by 30 people who wanted us to sign.”
And Walters is nearing the next step forward as he prepares for the NHL draft, which takes place in two weeks.
Walters has found himself largely in the shadows as the draft approaches. Murray, who’s expected to be picked early in the first round, is the Silvertips defenseman who garners most of the attention.
However, Walters has his own impressive resume. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound native of St. Albert, Alberta, was eighth-overall selection in the 2009 bantam draft. He had six goals, 12 assists and 95 penalty minutes — as well as a number of highlight-reel hits — in 62 games for Everett as a 17-year-old.
He’s been involved in the Hockey Canada setup, playing for Team Pacific at the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge and being one of the last cuts from Canada’s U-18 team for the 2011 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. And he came in at 67th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Service’s final rankings for the 2012 draft, projecting him somewhere in the mid rounds.
Walters was one of 105 players who were invited to attend the combine, which gave the NHL teams one last look at the prospects prior to the draft.
“I met up with (Everett goaltender) Kent Simpson a couple days before I left,” Walters said. “He went to the combine two years ago. He told me what to expect and gave me a few tips.”
Walters spent six days in Toronto. The first couple days consisted of interviews with NHL teams — he estimated he interviewed with 14 different teams. Then he had his day of physicals and testing. Finally, he made a quick detour to Buffalo, where he and several other players participated in a skate for the Sabres.
Walters, who is the outgoing type, said he felt comfortable going through the interview process.
“Those were good,” Walters said. “They ask pretty generic questions. They ask about your family, what your parents do, what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. Some felt more comfortable than others. The interview with the New York Rangers felt pretty good. Florida and Columbus also felt good.”
The physical testing was a different matter. The players are put through a series of rigorous activities, concluding with the infamous Wingate and VO2 max tests. Both are performed on a stationary bike — the Wingate test measures anaerobic capacity, the VO2 max test measures oxygen usage — and both are renown for inducing vomiting. Walters wasn’t able to avoid succumbing.
“They had a puke room curtained off for the players,” Walters said. “When I went in the only seat open was right next to the puke can, so I got that smell and it triggered the gag reflex.”
Walters said he was satisfied with how the combine went.
“(The highlight) was just being there, knowing that I was in the top however many players in the world and had a chance to show the what I could to the NHL teams,” Walters said. “But overall it was a great experience.”
And does Walters have a team he hopes selects him in the draft?
“Honestly, any team that calls my name I’ll be ecstatic about,” Walters said. “Just having the chance to play pro hockey would be a dream come true.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.