The relief in Adam Musil’s voice was obvious.
The Red Deer Rebels power forward was selected by the St. Louis Blues early in the fourth round of the NHL entry draft Saturday at Sunrise, Fla. The six-foot-two, 202-pound centre was projected as a late second- to early third-round pick, but was on the board until the Blues took him 94th overall.
“It’s been a long day but I’m excited to be with the Blues,” Musil told the Blues VideoCentre. “It’s a great moment for my family and myself. I’m really happy. The Blues have a great team and it’s a great organization. Obviously I want to be a part of the Blues family. It’s an exciting time, an exciting day. For sure it was a long one, but it’s an honour to be part of this organization now.”
Red Deer native Andrew Nielsen, a Lethbridge Hurricanes defenceman, was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the third round, 65th overall.
Musil praised Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter for helping him achieve his dream of being drafted.
“He’s taught me a lot, he’s been through all the things that are necessary to get to that next level,” said the North Vancouver native. “He’s given me a lot of tips on how to get to the next level.”
Musil is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father Frank and uncle Bobby Holik, who both had lengthy NHL careers. His older brother, David, has played four games with Edmonton and remains one of the Oilers’ top prospects.
“With my dad’s experience and my brother’s experience, I can use that to my advantage and that’s what I try to do,” said Musil.
Due to this year’s draft featuring an inordinate amount of talent and potential, Sutter said Musil could eventually become a better NHL player than one taken in the second round.
“There were four tiers of players in this draft,” said Sutter. “You had (Connor) McDavid and (Jack) Eichel at the top, then the next tier went down to about No. 10. Then it went from there right through to the third and fourth rounds, and then you had the last tier of players. It was a very deep draft that way.”
The Rebels boss also wasn’t surprised that Musil slipped to the fourth round.
“One, it was a deep draft, and two, he had a tough second half of the year,” said Sutter.
Three other Rebels — defenceman Austin Strand and forwards Evan Polei and Grayson Pawlenchuk — were passed over in the draft despite being ranked by Central Scouting.
Although disappointed for the players, Sutter said each of them, like Musil, suffered through bouts of inconsistency during the 2014-15 season.
“I’m disappointed that at least a couple of them weren’t drafted, but it is what it is,” he said. “But they are guys who will have an opportunity to be drafted next year.
At the end of the day, consistency is such a big thing and that’s something we as coaches stressed with these guys. You have to be continue to get better out there. You can’t have ups and downs. If you want to get to the next level you have to continue to grow and develop, and not just on the ice but with your off-ice habits too . . . eating and training habits.
“These guys are important parts of our team and we’ll continue to address these things with them. Some take longer than others to clue in on it. It’s all about attitude, that’s where guys like Pawly, Evan and Strander don’t get drafted because of consistency things and doing things right all the time,” added Sutter.
While Polei went undrafted, he will attend the Detroit Red Wings prospects camp this summer and will also participate in the club’s fall camp.
• The six-foot-three, 207-pound Nielsen is considered somewhat of a late bloomer, having just completed his first season with the Hurricanes after playing at the minor midget AAA level in 2012-13 and joining the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs as a 17-year-old the following season.
Clearly, the Leafs scouts were impressed with Nielsen’s play during his rookie WHL season. He appeared in 59 games with the ‘Canes, scoring seven goals and collecting 24 points to go with 101 penalty minutes.
“Honestly, I was speechless,” he told Pat Siedlecki of Hurricane Watch, shortly after being selected by Toronto. “I couldn’t have predicted any of that.”
Nielsen did not attend the draft.
“I was honoured and blessed that I had my family around me to share the experience,” he said from his Red Deer home. “It is kind of surreal getting to go to a team like that that has so much history. I’m just excited and looking forward to the next couple of weeks.
“I didn’t expect to go that early, it was a shock. It was a relief just knowing that all the hard work and the process are finally falling into place. If you would have told me at the start of the year that I’d be a Toronto Maple Leaf on June 27th, I probably would have laughed at you.”