When it came time to decide whether Zach Nagelvoort would attend the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia or watch it at home in Holland, Michigan, Nagelvoort’s dad, Scott, had a suggestion.
How about a golf outing to keep down the nerves instead?
So on Saturday, when the Edmonton Oilers selected Nagelvoort as the 111th overall pick, the Michigan hockey team’s breakout goaltender and co-Freshman of the Year was on the fairway. Messages from friends and family, not Twitter or the television screen, delivered the good news.
“I actually got a text from my mom,” he said.
Much like his stellar freshman campaign, Nagelvoort’s early fourth-round selection came as a bit of a surprise, even to him.
Though he allowed 2.20 goals per game and boasted a .929 save percentage in his first season in net for Michigan — both of which put him in the top 10 among NCAA goalies — Nagelvoort came into the Draft ranked No. 20 among North American goaltenders by the NHL Central Scouting Service. And at the hardest position to project in the draft, even a seventh-round pick was no guarantee.
Though a school-record 61-save game against Penn State at the Big Ten Tournament in March put an exclamation point on a draft-worthy season, Nagelvoort said he knew the NHL was a possibility in the first half of the season.
“There wasn’t one game necessarily,” he said. “Just when my teammates started showing so much confidence in me, I knew.”
He is the first Michigan goaltender drafted since Billy Saur in 2006.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia on Friday night, Michigan’s hometown hero and incoming freshman forward Dylan Larkin waited nervously as the first 14 team representatives stood at the podium and announced their respective picks.
Then, at No. 15, Larkin became a member of the Detroit Red Wings, though he said he would honor his commitment to Michigan.
Ranked No. 17 among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, Larkin was projected to go within the top 20 for most of the year. But he — and seemingly every hockey fan in the state of Michigan — hoped he’d get to wear the same jersey as his longtime idol when Detroit went on the clock.
“The captain (Steve Yzerman) pretty much says it all,” he said. “He was a true professional.”
The Waterford, Michigan native and Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Team Development Program standout also became the first Big Ten player taken in the first round and the Wolverines’ highest draftee since defenseman Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets at No. 9 in 2012.
“It was pretty special,” Larkin said. “I was pretty nervous, but just to hear your name was pretty special.”
Larkin knew he would almost certainly fulfill his lifelong dream of playing a professional sport. Now, he will also get the chance to play for the team he grew up a fan of.
Notes: Larkin was the first U.S.-born player to go in the draft. In total, the Big Ten had 13 players or commits selected by NHL teams, tied with the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference for the second-most draftees. ... There were also 62 NCAA-affiliated players drafted, including five each from Boston College and Boston University. Michigan defeated both teams last season at Yost Ice Arena and will make a trip to Boston in 2014.