Harder: Stephenson Focused on NHL Dream
June 21, 2012
The Leader Post's Greg Harder catches up with Regina Pats forward Chandler Stephenson who's headed to Pittsburgh for the NHL Entry Draft.
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By Greg Harder, Leader-Post
REGINA — Regina Pats forward Chandler Stephenson might have a tendency to get his hopes up heading into this weekend’s NHL entry draft.
Good thing he has someone to keep him grounded.
“I’ve been anxious and nervous to see where I go (in the draft) ... but my brother talks to me about it,” Stephenson said of his older sibling, Colton, a former WHL forward with the Edmonton Oil Kings. “He says in the end it’s where you finish not where you start. That’s true. I’m just kind of going with those words. Getting drafted is a big step and puts you a little bit closer. It would obviously be great to go fairly high but my goal my whole life has been to play in the NHL and that’s what I’m going to be shooting for.”
Stephenson is slated to leave for Pittsburgh early this morning, accompanied by his parents and brother. Colton Stephenson, 19, was a prospect for the 2010 NHL draft but ended up falling off the radar due to concussion problems, which eventually forced him to retire last year.
“He’s pretty jacked up (to go to Pittsburgh),” said Chandler, an 18-year-old Saskatoon native. “Obviously it hurts in the back of his mind that he had to retire due to concussions. It still eats him up a bit, which is kind of sad.”
Despite that fact, Colton continues to be an inspiration to his younger brother.
“He helped me out a lot in my career,” added Chandler. “I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him. I don’t consider him a brother, I consider him to be one of my better friends. I’m thankful for that. He’s always there when I need to talk. He’s always there giving me motivational speeches. He’ll tell me how it is and he’ll watch my games and tell me what I need to do.”
It’s working out pretty well for Stephenson, Central Scouting’s 33rd-ranked North American skater. That places him in line to be selected as high as the second round, but there are no guarantees.
“If I go high I go high, if I go low I go low; I’m not going to let it affect me too much,” said Stephenson, who’s undaunted by horror stories about players who regret attending the draft after being forced to wait around longer than expected. “That goes back to the experience. Just being there is kind of a big deal. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. There are guys like (Detroit Red Wings stars) Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg who went in the (sixth) round and (seventh) round. I’m not saying I’m one of them but it happens to a lot of guys who still end up playing in the NHL.”
Stephenson is coming off a solid campaign with the Pats, recording 22 goals and 42 points in just 55 games. He missed six weeks with a knee injury but returned just in time to take part in the CHL Top Prospects Game, where he recorded the third-hardest shot in the skills competition (94.1 miles per hour). The fleet-footed Stephenson is strong for his size — a solidly built 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds — as evidenced by the fact that he finished first at the recent NHL scouting combine with 52 pushups.
Stephenson admits the past few months have been a whirlwind, but he’s excited about what the future has in store.
“It went by really quick, but I’m here,” he added. “It’s hard to believe. I hear the draft is a great experience so I’m going to take it all in and cherish it and remember it for the rest of my life. Wherever I go, I go. I’ll be happy with whatever team picks me. I have the opportunity of a lifetime so there’s a lot of kids who would want to be where I am. I’m just going to have to take it and run with it.”
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