The normally verbose Chris Driedger stood in the cold, dark bowels of the Scotiabank Saddledome, nay a hair out of place after spending the game on the bench backing up starter Brandon Glover, pressing to find the right adjective to describe his draft season.
His answer? Surreal.
“You’re not really used to it,” Driedger said. “It’s my first exposure to the NHL. As a kid, you’re looking up and going ‘Oh, the NHL guys’. Now it’s my draft year. Where did that come from? It’s surreal in that way.”
Driedger, acquired by the Calgary Hitmen from the Tri-City Americans this offseason, has had a whirlwind six months, to say the least.
He was invited as one of six goalies to Canada’s Program of Excellence U-18 goaltending camp in June. Later in the summer, Driedger was one of four netminders to participate in the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp.
Starting the Western Hockey League season with an ankle injury, he’s battled both pain and Glover for time in the Hitmen crease.
At every turn, a handful of scouts have been present, scribbling notes after every shot the Winnipeg, MB. native turns aside or lets by him.
“It’s very important you don’t think about it all the time,” said Driedger, who has put together a 2.98 goals against average and .888 save percentage in 25 games this season. “I have to play my game and can’t worry about what else happens. If I just focus on how I’m playing then all the draft stuff will work itself out.”
That’s not to say he hasn’t seen and heard the opinions and rankings of different scouting organizations.
“I always hear about it, it’s interesting to see what people think,” Driedger admitted. “I just try to use it as motivation to better my game. It’s important but it’s not the end of the world.”
Driedger also has Glover pushing him. The 19-year-old Glover has been battling Driedger for crease time all season. Only 34 minutes through 45 games this season separates the ice time between the two.
“It’s good to have that relationship with your other goalie but again we push each other and compete because we’re fighting for ice time out there,” Driedger said.
But perhaps Glover’s biggest contribution to the draft eligible goaltender comes in his knowledge.
“He’s got the experience,” the six-foot-two Driedger said. “He was in his draft year two years ago going through basically the same thing I’m going through now. He knows what it took for him and what he did and didn’t do so he always talks to me about that.”
Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson hopes his potential starter doesn’t spend too much time worrying about the future. It’s very promising already, according to Williamson.
“He’s very good. He just goes about his business. He’s professional in his demeanor and approach to his game,” the coach said, likening Driedger to former Hitmen goalie and Los Angeles Kings prospect Martin Jones. “Chris is obviously has all the tools to be a premier goalie at this level and move to have a good pro career.”
And there is nothing surreal about that.