Gabe Vilardi doesn’t need the reminder.
He knows he’s entering his draft year.
But the 17-year-old isn’t concerned.
He’s embracing the experience, one day at a time.
“You have to enjoy it,” said Vilardi, who sustained a knee injury at Canada’s selection camp for the Ivan Hlinka, but is expected to resume full-time duty with the Windsor Spitfires, his junior team, soon. “It only happens once. It’s only your draft year once. You might as well take it as it goes. You have to have fun.
What will be will be.
The 17-year-old, wise beyond his years, is well aware. He’s not stressing over rankings, scouts, or the process.
Vilardi is only concerned with what he can control.
“That’s how it goes,” said Vilardi, the No. 2 pick of the Spitfires in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection. “I grew up with the idea that if you work hard and things will come to you. You get lucky if you work hard. I just try to work harder than the guy next to me and I can win that battle. That’s how I see it.”
It’s the approach Vilardi took in a self-described up-and-down rookie season with Windsor in 2015-16. Vilardi finished with 17 goals, 38 points and a minus-7 rating in 62 games.
Impressive totals at 16.
The Kingston, ON native wasn’t satisfied, though.
“Last year I started off pretty good and then we were a pretty good team and I dropped and I didn’t get a lot of playing time,” he said. “That helped me. You can only control what you can control. I kept working hard in practice. I wasn’t getting that many points or playing much. You just have to keep working hard. That’s what I did.”
Its not all Vilardi did, though.
He watched. And learned.
And as teammates Mikhail Sergachev and Logan Brown weaved their way to the 2016 NHL Draft before being selected by the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, respectively, in the top-half of the first round, Vilardi was taking notes.
He saw their joy on draft day.
He saw the stresses and struggles through the season, too.
“You’re kind of curious,” Vilardi said. “I wanted to go in there and see what’s going on, what’s being asked of them. I was just excited for them. They went through it and are drafted now.
“Everyone goes through a lot of ups and downs through the year. I went through them. The boys that got drafted went through them. I can’t stress enough that you just try to make sure you’re doing the right things with your body and working hard and everything will play out as it does.”
Even in that, Vilardi isn’t too concerned with how the draft plays out.
He knows it’s not the end all.
It’s just another start.
“The draft…the draft just tells you where you go,” Vilardi said. “You’ve got to work hard after that. It’s one day. You enjoy that day. It’s still far away. My focus isn’t there.”