Jordan Papirny’s first taste of the National Hockey League made him hungry for more.
Passed over in June’s NHL draft, the disappointment didn’t last long for the Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender as he was quickly invited to the Montreal Canadiens’ development camp. The 18-year-old Edmonton native took part in that camp this month, skating alongside players ranging from Saskatoon Blades sniper Nikita Scherbak, the club’s first-round draft pick this year, to the likes of Nathan Beaulieu and Patrick Holland, who have already seen NHL action, taught him some lessons and gave him something to shoot for.
"I learned a lot and it really puts in perspective how close the National Hockey League is," Papirny said. "I took a lot in and I learned a lot from a goaltending perspective and (about) being a pro off the ice, and I’m excited to head back in September."
After fitness testing on the first day, a typical day at the camp started with a morning practice followed by a workout and an evening scrimmage, although the team took the players to a bicycle track one day for a little fun on BMX, mountain and road bikes.
The ice sessions were all held at the Canadiens’ practice facility, with a big crowd for the final session giving Papirny a glimpse into what pro hockey in Montreal is all about.
"There was a huge crowd," he said. "They didn’t really open the stands until the last scrimmage. … The fans were unbelievable. There was people waiting outside the facility for up to three hours, just waiting to talk to some of us or get a picture or whatnot."
While Papirny is anxious to return to Montreal, when he got back to Edmonton it was time for him to focus on his second season as a Wheat King.
The 22nd overall pick in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Papirny picked up momentum as his rookie season went on. Injuries to veteran Curtis Honey and Papirny’s own improving play led to 46 appearances for the youngster and he went 22-15-4-3 with a 3.28 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. He turned up his game even more for the playoffs, with an excellent .914 percentage despite facing flurries of shots from the eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
Papirny said he’s working hard on his cardiovascular endurance and his lower-body strength in anticipation of an even bigger workload this season.
"I have a really good opportunity, going back and being the guy," he said. "And we’re going to have a really good squad, obviously, with a lot of guys returning and our younger guys having another year under their belt."