Jayce Hawryluk became a high school graduate on the weekend; now it’s time for him to get a taste of the real world.
Mind you Hawryluk’s real world is a dream for many as the Brandon Wheat Kings star is about to be chosen in the National Hockey League entry draft in Philadelphia. The draft begins with the first round on Friday, continuing with the final six rounds on Saturday. Hawryluk is expected to be chosen in the first three rounds.
"It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’m going to enjoy it," said Hawryluk, who will attend the draft and has a few last-minute interviews with teams planned. "It’s fun right now, and then it starts to get serious after."
Hawryluk, 18, scored 24 goals in his second Western Hockey League season, leading the Wheat Kings with 64 points and a plus/minus of +16 in 59 games. He went on to add five goals and seven assists in eight playoff games. Hawryluk also had a health scare in the playoffs, being hospitalized after a win over the Regina Pats. But after a superb showing in fitness testing at the NHL combine in Toronto, it doesn’t appear to have affected his draft status.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound right-winger from Roblin is ranked 37th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He’s been rated 45th overall by TSN’s Craig Button and 66th overall by Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News.
"Hawryluk was spunky and had a good work ethic; he’s undersized, but plays big and with grit," Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald wrote in Hawryluk’s draft profile on NHL.com. "He has decent hands and good instincts and definitely had a tremendous second half."
Following a busy spring that included helping Canada win a bronze medal at the world under-18 championship and the grinds of the WHL playoffs and the NHL combine, Hawryluk said he’s put most of his focus recently on preparing for next season and letting the chips fall where they may in the draft.
"Let it all handle itself, you know," Hawryluk said of his approach to the draft at this point. "Basically, (the NHL scouts and executives have) seen you play and they know what they’re going to get when they draft you. In the end it’s up to them what they want, and whenever I get drafted I’m going to be excited and it’s going to be an honour."
While Hawryluk is doing a pretty good job of keeping his excitement under wraps right now, it might not be so easy come draft day. A number of Wheat King teammates are also candidates to be chosen, most notably Hawryluk’s linemate John Quenneville, who is also projected to be a high pick. Meanwhile, one of Hawryluk’s off-season workout partners, Calgary Hitmen defenceman Travis Sanheim of Elkhorn, should also hear his name called early on.
"They’re going through the same thing I am, so we talk about it and we’re on this ride together, and it’s nice to be on this ride with such close friends I’ve made over the years playing hockey," Hawryluk said.
"I might be more excited for when John gets picked than when I do. I’m going to be real excited for John and Travis. John’s like my best friend and my brother and so when he gets drafted it will basically be like my brother getting drafted. So I’m going to be excited for him."
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings will gear up for the WHL season with a pair of pre-season home-and-home series versus the Regina Pats and the Moose Jaw Warriors. Brandon will host Regina on Friday, Sept. 5 at Westman Place and will host Moose Jaw on Friday, Sept. 12. The Wheat Kings’ full regular-season schedule is slated to be released today.