Lengthy wait nearly over for Saskatoon Blades NHL draft hopefuls

Click to play video: 'Lengthy wait nearly over for Saskatoon Blades NHL draft hopefuls' Lengthy wait nearly over for Saskatoon Blades NHL draft hopefuls
WATCH: Five Saskatoon Blades players are among those hoping to hear their names called in the 2020 National Hockey League draft – Oct 6, 2020

The long wait is finally nearing its end for the Saskatoon Blades‘ latest crop of National Hockey League draft prospects.

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft kicks off on Oct. 6, more than three months later than usual and in a virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the players hoping to hear their names called are five Blades, led by forward Tristen Robins, who is ranked 86th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Robins entered last season as a player to watch but it wasn’t until the second half that scouts really started to take notice.

After posting 22 points in his first 31 games, Robins racked up 51 points over the next 31. That saw his prospect ranking climb nearly 50 spots and now he’s on the verge of seeing his hockey dream come true.

Story continues below advertisement

“A lot of players feel the same way but as soon as you figure out what the NHL draft, is I think that if you’re a hockey player, that’s what you want to do: be selected to an NHL team and play in the NHL,” he said.

Read more: Winnipeg’s Seth Jarvis ready to hear name called on NHL Draft night

Although he had to wait longer than expected to achieve his goal, now that draft week has finally arrived, so, too, has Robins’ anticipation. The Clear Lake, Man., native is looking forward to sharing the moment at home with his family.

“Up until right now it’s kind of been in the back of my mind but it’s really snuck up on me. I’m like, wow, it’s only a few days now so yeah, I’m really excited,” he said.

Robins has been projected as anywhere from a late first-round to a third- or fourth-round pick.

Four of his teammates are also hoping for some good news at the draft but how many will actually be selected is hard to predict.

Defenceman Rhett Rhinehart is the Blades’ next-highest-ranked skater by Central Scouting at 151st. The native of Lloydminster, Alta., was acquired by Saskatoon in a deadline deal with the Prince George Cougars in January and by his own admission, there were times when he didn’t play his best.

Story continues below advertisement

But Rhinehart says he’s heard from a few NHL teams over the last few months and he remains optimistic about the draft.

“I don’t believe the season went as well as it could have for me. I believe I didn’t really capitalize on lots of things which I could have but from what I’ve heard, it’s looking pretty positive for me and I’m hoping it ends up that way,” he said.

Read more: Coronavirus — WHL planning to start next season Dec. 4

Goaltender Koen MacInnes is similarly on the bubble. He’s ranked 22nd among North American goalies after an impressive rookie season with the Blades that saw him post a 2.84 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 24 games.

He made his biggest impact in nine straight starts in place of injured number one netminder Nolan Maier. But MacInnes acknowledges that NHL teams often prefer to draft goaltenders who are a year or two further along in their development and is tempering his draft expectations accordingly.

Read more: Moose Jaw Warriors to undergo logo review

“If I get drafted, that’s awesome. I’m gonna be super thankful, super grateful but if it doesn’t (happen), then it doesn’t really mean anything. I’ll just keep working, try and have an incredible year next year and get drafted then,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Defenceman Aiden De La Gorgendiere and forward Kyle Crnkovic, ranked 197th and 208th, respectively, among North American skaters, round out the Blades’ group of draft hopefuls.

When all is said and done, it could be a big night for the blue and gold but no matter who is selected, Blades fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about the team’s pro prospects.

Round 1 of the NHL draft kicks off at 5 p.m. local time on Oct. 6 with the remaining six rounds set to begin at 9:30 a.m. the following day.

Sponsored content