Sam Mayer’s hometown of L’Orignal, a French-speaking village in eastern Ontario, is only an hour and a half outside of Montreal.
“It may be a long day but if I get rewarded at the end it’s a moment I don’t want to miss,” said Mayer. “It’s really close to my house and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The six-foot-three lefty was eligible for the draft last year, but wasn’t on the radar since he had yet to play a game in the Ontario Hockey League.
That wasn’t the case for his teammate Tucker Robertson, who was also passed over during the 2021 NHL Draft. The Petes forward was a rookie during the 2019-2020 OHL season that was cut short due to COVID-19. The following season was cancelled, but Robertson thought he may have done enough to get drafted.
“Last year I sat at home watching the draft and didn’t get picked,” said Robertson. “It was tough but I think I used it as motivation. Hopefully this year it works out for me. If not I’ll do the same thing and keep working. It’s pretty exciting. It’s a little nerve-wracking. Hopefully I get picked.”
The two players’ paths to being potential NHL picks look much different.
Mayer’s was less traditional. The physical defenceman was taken by the Petes 15th overall in the 2020 U18 Draft from the Hawkesbury Hawks. The draft gives players who were overlooked during the OHL Priority Selection a second chance to break into the league.
Mayer seized the opportunity. He entered the 2021-2022 season as an 18-year-old rookie. Mayer netted 11 goals and had 26 assists in 68 games and was named the Petes top defenceman at the end of the season.
“I think I’ve done enough to get drafted.” said Mayer. “I think I had a really good season and I think I helped the team in a lot of situations and filled up a lot of roles.”
The word ‘underrated’ is one that has been associated with Mayer heading into the NHL draft.
“Not a lot of people knew who I was until mid-season, let’s say, so people started calling me underrated and all that stuff,” explained Mayer. “I don’t think about it all that much. I just focus on myself and try to get ready for next year.”
Robertson was selected by the Petes in the 4th round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection from the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Toronto Marlboros.
He earned a spot on the maroon and white in his first year notching eight goals and 10 assists in 55 games during his rookie season.
The Toronto native returned from the missed OHL season as one of the Petes best players. He quadrupled his scoring output in his sophomore campaign with 41 goals and 40 assists in 68 games. Robertson scored more goals this season than any other draft eligible player in the OHL.
“I think I had a good enough season to get drafted and that I deserve to,” said Robertson. “I’ve talked to lots of (NHL) teams so far. I think they all want to reach out to a lot of guys and see who’s the best fit for the team. Definitely no guarantees or anything but I’m looking forward to the draft.”
Mayer says his agent has also been in contact with a number of NHL clubs.
Both are feeling confident heading into the second day of the draft and say hearing their name would be a dream come true.
“It would mean a lot,” says Robertson. “It would just show that all the hard work is paying off and meaning something now. Ever since I’ve been a kid the NHL has been the goal, and winning the Stanley Cup. This would just be another step in the process of getting there so it would be huge.”
“I think I would just be so happy,” said Mayer. “It’s a moment you’ll never forget.”
Mayer is ranked 139th on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters while Robertson sat at the 162nd spot entering the draft.