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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From out of nowhere to Broad Street

Elkhorn product rocketed up draft ranking, picked by Philly

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PHILADELPHIA -- The big screen in the Wells Fargo Center told pretty much the whole tale for rising draft star Travis Sanheim of Elkhorn.

On pretty much nobody's radar at year ago, the 18-year-old defenceman for the Calgary Hitmen gained confidence and poise throughout his season and landed in the middle of the big party Friday night at the first round of the NHL's Draft.

Emotions

The hometown Philadelphia Flyers and GM Ron Hextall, a native of Brandon, called Sanheim's name in the 17th slot, touching off a lot of emotions.

Certainly among Flyers' fans, who were more than wound up with their cheering and jeering (sorry NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) all night.

And there on the big screen after Sanheim had gone down to the stage to meet his new team were his Sanheim's parents Shelly and Kent, and Kent had more than a tear or two in his eyes.

"Yeah, I did (see that)," Sanheim said later to a throng of reporters curious about what Broad Street's team had just welcomed. "It's just a great feeling. They're extremely proud of me and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

"You could tell that they're honoured for me to be selected. Coming from a small town, Elkhorn, Manitoba, just shows with hard work and dedication, you can make it."

He's not there yet, but he's already come a long way.

Playing midget in Manitoba just a year ago, Sanheim made the Hitmen and blossomed in the season's second half.

Then he was an instrumental player for Canada at the World Under-18 challenge in the spring, impressing even more scouts and sending his draft credentials skyrocketing.

He landed at No. 53 on NHL central scouting's list, but The Hockey News had him at No. 21 overall and the buzz among scouts and hockey people in the last two weeks indicated he was surely headed for a first-round selection.

"I was obviously a little shocked," Sanheim said. "That last few months for me have been a little crazy. I wasn't sure whether I was going to be selected in the first round or not.

"I knew I had a chance to go to the Flyers. They were really interested. I'm just really proud to be selected by them. My interview yesterday went really well.

"They sounded extremely interested. Yesterday was when I had the feeling it was Philadelphia."

After booing just about every other team present, Flyers fans went all rah-rah when Bettman called them to pick at No. 17.

"Being in the building tonight, the fans were crazy," Sanheim smiled. "You could see the passion. It's a hockey city and I'm lucky to be here.

"To have the fan support right away, as soon as you're picked, that's great."

Sanheim marvelled at his own journey in the last 12 months.

"It's been a crazy year, the last year," he said. "Last year I was playing midget hockey and I wasn't even thinking about the draft or U18s or anything like that. I was just trying to crack the Calgary Hitmen roster. I did that and a couple of months into the season, started picking up my confidence."

He said the under-18 tournament, where Canada won bronze, was critical for his confidence.

"I showed I could be one of the top guys, be relied upon in all situations," he said.

All of that, though, is just paper when it comes to the whims of NHL teams at the draft.

"It's scary and you're nervous and leading up to the Philadelphia pick when the fans started going nuts, you could feel the passion in the building and I was starting to shake," he said. "I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stand for the pick. It was a great feeling."

Another Manitoba connection appeared late in Friday's first round.

John Quenneville, a centre with the Brandon Wheat Kings, was chosen 30th overall by the New Jersey Devils.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2014 C3

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