When Austin Pratt was a kid, at night he dreamed of being a goalie.
By day he was a forward and that’s what he wanted to be, but the Red Deer Rebels right winger relished the chance to stop a few shots from his brother and dad.
“Every night before I went to bed I’d always have my brother and my dad shoot on me. I was always a player, goalie at night,” Pratt recalled.
From those days on the backyard rink, the one that his dad would build every winter for Pratt, his brother and sister, it was part of the equation where the Rebels forward grew to love the game.
The other was in the depths of Young Arena in Iowa, where the 17-year-old’s dad served as the chiropractor for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
“I was so young I just thought it was cool to be able to be there and watch the games and just be alongside my father. The whole time was really cool,” he said.
Pratt added there were never any major hockey lessons learned when his dad toted him around the arena, but being around that environment, hockey became a way of life.
“(My Dad) would take me to the rink, I got to run around and met all the older guys. At the time I thought it was the coolest thing ever. He put me on skates and then every winter he would build us an outdoor rink. Me, my brother and my sister. We’d be out there all day skating,” the Lakeville, Minn., native remembered.
The six-foot-three, 205-pound forward has long been dedicated to the game and it’s starting to pay off. He was recently named in the top 100 of the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Draft rankings. At 84th, Pratt knows it’s no sure fire bet he’ll get drafted, but the rankings are something he definitely keeps an eye on.
“This year, definitely I do [pay attention],” Pratt said. “This year I follow it and it’s pretty cool.”
The rankings have affected players in the past and Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt cautioned the winger not too take too much stock in them.
“I’ve seen where guys take a look at it and they either get way too high or way too low just because there is something that’s in print,” he said. “With a long way to go in the season and the playoffs, there’s so many things … right now it’s just a statement. It really doesn’t mean a ton. You just need one team that is really going to like you.”
Pratt already has a WHL career high in goals this season with 11 and 26 points through 46 games. He had just 12 points through 56 games last season.
“He’s a contributing offensive forward but also a power forward and good two-way guy. One thing I like about Austin’s game this year is he’s got better vision and anticipation on the ice. He’s a bigger guy, more confident in his shooting against the goaltenders in this league and he’s done a really good job,” Truitt added.
The right winger thinks his all around game will be a huge asset going forward.
“Size, speed, strength and I can finish,” he said. “I block shots, I can play just a team game for everyone.”
The development of a passion for that team game started back as a bantam player at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a renowned high school hockey program where players like Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews strapped on the skates.
“It was great. Met some life-long friends. Just being around your teammates and going to school with them everyday, hanging out with them after practice. It’s definitely a cool experience,” Pratt said, while adding that winning as a team helped, too.
“Being at Shattuck, winning back-to-back national championships. Being the first bantam team to every win it. Then being the first U16 team to win it. Special moment in my hockey career.”
Pratt is taking it day-by-day in his second WHL season, hoping that plenty more of those special memories are still to come in his hockey career.