Red Deer Rebels forward Lane Zablocki nearly missed hearing his name called during the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday afternoon.
The 18-year-old winger was at home with his family in Regina, watching the draft in Chicago unfold, while another player was being interviewed on the broadcast.
Zablocki said he heard mention of the WHL, but not the team, then thought he might have heard his name, but wasn’t sure until it popped up on the screen. His parents were convinced it wasn’t him.
“I heard in the background there was a little bit of booing, because it was Detroit’s pick and Chicago being an original six team, there’s a big rivalry there,” he recalled.
“I said to my parents, I think I got picked, they said, ‘no’. Next thing you know it popped up on the screen, it was hard to believe for the first couple hours, even first day. It’s kind of surreal, kind of hard to believe.”
He was selected in the third round, 79th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, a team that didn’t show much interest throughout the season, but did talk to him the NHL Draft Combine. Zablocki said joining an organization with that kind of history is a dream come true.
“It’s one of my first goals. It’s just the first step in the process. But it’s a big one,” he said.
“I had a little feeling (after the combine) that could be where I end up… they are an original six team, they have a rich history and tradition. I know what kind of style they play – hard, gritty and hard to play against, hopefully one day I can take my talents and my game and fit into the organization.”
The Wetaskiwin native spoke with Red Wings Director of Player Development Shawn Horcoff shortly after the draft and made sure to try and get a sense of what the team hopes for him going forward.
“For the most part I just have to get bigger and stronger obviously. I think I have to learn to play away from the puck a little better. They said don’t change the way I play,” he said.
“Getting under people’s skin, that gritty and playing with an edge. They said that’s something special, there’s not a whole lot of it left out there anymore.”
The six-foot, 185-pound forward added it’s been a busy summer, taking just a few days off after the Rebels season ended then heading right into the gym. He said he’s been in twice-a-day, six times a week trying to add muscle for the upcoming season. So far?
“I’ve seen lots of progress, lost two and a half percent body fat in the first five weeks (after the Rebels season) and (added) just under 15 pounds (of muscle) I think that’s one thing that really showed them that I’m trying to do my best to improve,” Zablocki said.
He hasn’t been on the ice as much as he would have liked in the last few months, dealing with a minor ankle issue that with rest will allow him to be ready for Red Wings Development Camp on July 7.
Zablocki will likely be back in Red Deer for the Rebels August 23-30 training camp. The Red Wings prospect said if and when he returns to Red Deer, he’ll try and be the same player he’s always been, the one that got him selected in the draft on the weekend.
“I don’t think i’m going to change too much in my game at all,” he said.
“I think it’s gotten me to this point, just have to continue to evolve my game and try not to change it all. Just going into next season, focus on little things and skills, my play away from the puck.”