Luke Coleman could have been disappointed when his name wasn’t called during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
After all, he went into the draft ranked 169th on some boards, which would had him in the seventh round.
But when his name wasn’t called the Prince Albert Raiders power forward wasn’t about to let it bother him.
“I didn’t happen, but I was invited to the Detroit Red Wings camp,” said the 18-year-old Red Deer native.
Coleman attended the camp along with one of his best friends and Red Deer Rebels centre Jeff de Wit.
“It was good. I thought I had a good camp and it was a great experience,” Coleman said. “All they said when I left was to have a good year and go through the draft again.”
Coleman, who is in his second full season with the Raiders, is off to a solid start this season with five goals and an assist in 14 games. Last year, he had 13 goals and 16 helpers in 70 games.
“I think personally it’s going good and the team is coming along,” he said. “We’re off to a tough start (4-11-1-0), but I believe we have the talent and it will just take some work.”
And work is what describes Coleman’s game. The six-foot-two, 200-pound winger has always played a physical game as he came up through the Red Deer minor hockey system and into junior.
“I try to play the game fast and physical,” he said. “I try to put pressure on the puck and use my size. I’ve always played like that.”
Coleman played two seasons in the Red Deer bantam AAA program, scoring 17 goals and 24 assists in 32 games his second year. He played the season under head coach Kevin Smyth, who was an big influence on his career.
“He played a lot like I do, and helped me a lot with my game,” he said.
Coleman was a fifth round draft pick (104th overall) by the Raiders in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.
He played the 2013-14 season with the Red Deer Northstar Chiefs in minor midget and had 24 goals and 21 assists. He was called up late in the season to the midget AAA Optimist Chiefs, playing four games. The following season he didn’t make the Raiders so he returned to the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs and worked with head coach Brandon Cote, who is now with Prince Albert. In 27 games he had eight goals and 12 assists.
Late that season he played one game with the Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, then jumped to Prince Albert where he played 14 games and scored once.
“I had a friend going to Camrose, and I was interested in junior so I played a game with them,” he explained. “But after, I knew the WHL was for me.”
Coleman was pleased with his rookie season with the Raiders, but also knew he had work to do.
“I had the size, but I knew I had to be in better shape, leaner and quicker,” he said. “I worked hard on that and still do. I still really focus on being disciplined and working hard. That definitely helps my game.”
One of Coleman’s highlight games came last year in Red Deer, when he had a goal and two assists in a 3-2 win.
“That was certainly a memorable game, probably my biggest memory as it was in my home town and in front of my family and friends.”
As for the future Coleman would like to get drafted this year, but knows it’s not something he can control.
“I think about it, but mainly I just focus on my game and do what I can do. It will work out.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca