photo by Jim Orlando
Note: The Rockford IceHogs will be doing profiles of several current and former players' experiences in the NHL Entry Draft this week. Over 58 percent of the IceHogs players in the last three seasons were drafted to start their professional career.
Rockford, Ill.- When the 2006 NHL Entry Draft stopped in Vancouver, British Columbia, Simon Danis-Pepin was one of those anxious members of the audience at General Motors Place waiting to hear his name. But June 24, 2006, was not the first draft day Danis-Pepin had endured.
Danis-Pepin’s previous draft experience came in the Q Draft of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The defenseman suffered an injury and was never drafted in that attempt. As a result, Danis-Pepin took a different approach when the 2006 NHL Entry Draft rolled around.
“That was really upsetting,” Danis-Pepin said of the Q Draft. “That was kind of my experience already from getting drafted, so I kind of went into the draft in Vancouver with the idea that whatever happens, happens. If I’m not drafted by the sixth, seventh round, who cares? You just keep doing what you got to do.
“But I got picked by Chicago late second round and I couldn’t be more happy,” Danis-Pepin added.
The Montreal, Quebec, native was drafted 61st overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 2 of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. For Danis-Pepin, being drafted by the Blackhawks was both a dream come true and the next step in a life-long process.
“When I got drafted, it was just probably the best day of my life,” Danis-Pepin said. That’s what you work for your whole life as a kid, especially from Montreal: hockey. That’s all you want, that’s all you ever want is to have a chance, a shot at the NHL.”
Being drafted by an Original Six franchise made the experience even better for the 6-foot-7 defenseman.
“You can’t really describe the feeling you have. You’re almost in shock,” Danis-Pepin said. “It’s just like wow, this is happening right now. You’re a 17-year-old kid and you’re getting drafted, so it was obviously probably the biggest day of my life.”
Danis-Pepin already had a year of collegiate hockey at the University of Maine under his belt before the draft, and he would play three more seasons for the Black Bears before signing a three-year entry-level contract with Chicago in 2009.
Unlike drafts such as NFL and NBA, hockey players have the opportunity to remain in school for three years before they sign with their team. Danis-Pepin took full advantage of the college experience, earning a degree in advertising and marketing from Maine.
“It was kind of nice to have the feeling where I’m going to school, I’m playing for University of Maine, and I feel like a sense of belonging there. But then again I also have guys following me up in Chicago,” Danis-Pepin said.
“So it’s really motivating to know that it’s not like you’re just going to the draft and right away you’re trying to make the team the next year. It’s a process and they’re always there to watch you and all that. They give you a lot of hints and all that stuff for what you have to do to make it.”
The defensemen split time between the Toledo Walleye and the Rockford IceHogs in 2009-10, his first season of professional hockey. Now with his first pro season behind him, Danis-Pepin knows “it’s all about hockey.”
This summer, that means working out five days a week at 100 percent. And Danis-Pepin already has plans for next season, too.
“I think I really got to take it as a career, take it as my job and focus all the time on doing what I got to do to be the best player I can,” Danis-Pepin said. “This season what I’m going to have to do is just stay focused, listen to what everyone has to say, be coachable, and just keep working hard.”
Antti Niemi Saves, Now So Can You: Buy a regularly priced mezzanine endzone full season ticket for 2010-11 and get an additional one for just $31. Some restrictions apply. Call (815) 847-6399 to speak with an IceHogs season ticket representative.