From Final Draft Pick to NHL Debut, Zach Trotman Shows It's About Putting in the Work
BostonBruins.com - On Sunday, 210 more NHL hopefuls woke up one step closer to making it to the big-time.
With 25 first-round picks selected on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and another 185 on Saturday, the members of the 2014 NHL Draft class now have a tangible goal.
What happens after this weekend, though, is what matters most, whether the draftees heard their names called in-person or received phone calls with the good news, and whether they were chosen in the first round or as the final picks.
Being drafted is just the beginning of a process.
Many first rounders don't make it in the NHL. Many later picks work their way to the top.
Following the two-day draft in Philadelphia, the Bruins made five picks, taking forward David Pastrnak 25th overall in the first round, forward Ryan Donato in the second round (56th), forward Danton Heinen in the fourth round (116), forward Anders Bjork in the fifth round (146th) and defenseman Emil Johansson in the seventh round (206th).
They are a mix of players who will spend their time developing in junior hockey or the college ranks, and in European leagues.
When they are ready, they'll make the transition to the American Hockey League with Providence, yet another step in their development. This allows them plenty of time to get stronger, while the Bruins keep a close watch.
Before that process begins, it's up to the scouting staff and management to forecast those tough projections and draft players in the club's mold. But it's even more so up to the players to put in the work.
Bruins' prospect Zach Trotman won't hesitate in telling you about the latter.
On June 26, 2010, the defenseman - who has spent the past two seasons with Providence - was drafted by Boston as the 210th overall (and final) pick in the seventh round of the NHL Draft, held in Los Angeles.
That afternoon, Trotman was driving home after working a youth hockey camp at Lake Superior State University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where he played three seasons of college hockey before going pro. He had just finished up his freshman year.
He thought he may be a later round pick in the draft, but if not, he knew he had at least a few NHL camps to go to that summer. He wasn't going to get himself worked up about it.
While in the car, he got a call from his agent. The Bruins had traded a 2011 seventh round pick to Chicago to nab him. They didn't want to leave the draft without him. General Manager Peter Chiarelli worked the draft floor to find a taker.
"It was probably 4 or 5 o'clock, and my agent gave me a phone call - I saw it and I was like 'oh, I probably didn't get drafted, it's not a big deal, I might have some camps to go to'," Trotman recalled. "Then he's like, 'hey, you got drafted by the Boston Bruins.' And I didn't believe him at first. I was like, 'Shut up, you're lying to me' so he's like, 'No, they just traded Chicago for the last overall pick.'"
The Bruins' development camp was the following week. He was nervous. He had never been to an NHL camp. He was expecting everyone to be superstars.
Trotman was likely an after-thought among the Boston faithful at the time. The Bruins had drafted Tyler Seguin 208 picks earlier, followed by current prospects Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek and Zane Gothberg.
If he hadn't been drafted (he was in his final year of eligibility), he could have the opportunity to sign as a free agent after college, like Torey Krug.
"You know, I think everything happens for a reason and I didn't expect to get drafted at all," said Trotman. "I think the fact that I got picked last overall kind of gives you a chip on your shoulder to want to prove yourself a little bit more maybe. It gives you a little extra motivation to make it."
"I was just excited to get an opportunity with an organization like Boston, and I wasn't really following media, so when I got drafted, I was just excited about it, and then you start reading articles and stuff, and maybe some people are writing that they're not expecting a whole lot out of you or you get knocked a little bit, and then you start reading stuff like that and it makes you maybe want to work harder to prove yourself, like 'oh, I can be better than those other guys.'"
"So I think it played a big part in where I am now, and how I got there, and definitely my mindset. I don't if I would have thought the same way."
Less than four years after that June day in 2010, the 6'3" 219-pound defenseman made his NHL debut in Black & Gold. It came on December 28, 2013 in Ottawa against the Senators.
Just like the whirlwind experience of being drafted, Trotman found himself in the middle of a chaotic callup. Dennis Seidenberg had suffered a season-ending knee injury the day before, and Captain Zdeno Chara was a late scratch.
In need of another blueliner, Boston recalled Trotman. Only, he was in Glens Falls, New York at the time, and needed to take a four and a half hour cab ride to Ottawa, and arrived seven minutes into warmups.
"That was about as wild as the draft was," said Trotman. "That was obviously my first NHL game and I had a couple of other callups throughout the season but, yeah, it definitely goes to show it doesn't matter where you're drafted; it's just how bad you want it and how hard you want to work for it, and take advantage of opportunities."
It was a "logical choice," according to Head Coach Claude Julien, given his play in Ottawa. Trotman played his second NHL game on January 20, 2014, against LA at TD Garden.
In four years, the blueliner has worked his way from being the last overall pick in the draft, to having suited up in two regular season NHL games.
Trotman's confidence level has rocketed, and the big, strong defenseman has started to settle more into his role, developing in the Bruins' system. He's set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, and Boston has extended him a qualifying offer.
But, like his draft day, and NHL debut experience, he's learned to just let everything play out.
"You know, I try and control only the things I know I can control, and worry about the things that I know I can control," he said. "I can control a certain amount of it, and that's when I'm playing during the season, and I've done my part in that."
"We'll just let that take care of itself, and I'll just be ready for when the time comes to get back out on the ice."
Trotman hasn't carved himself out a full-time NHL role yet and would say he has much further to go. Still, no matter what happens, he's joined a small group that have defied the draft odds.
Since the first organized draft in 1963 (it was labeled the "NHL Amateur Draft" until 1979), only 11 players selected last overall have gone on to play at least one regular season game in the NHL.
Trotman is the most recent.
The list also consists of Patric Hornqvist (2005, drafted by Nashville, 230th overall), Jonathan Ericsson (2002, Detroit, 291st), Jay Henderson (1997, Boston, 246th), Kim Johnsson (1994, New York Rangers, 286th), Hans Jonsson (1993, Pittsburgh, 242nd), Sergei Pryakhin (1988, Calgary, 252nd), Igor Vyazmikin (1987, Edmonton, 252nd), Andy Brickley (1980, Philadelphia, 210th), Blair Barnes (1979, Edmonton, 126th) and Gerry Meehan (1963, Toronto, 21st).
That marks 40 players (not counting this past weekend's 2014 draft) who were picked last and never saw NHL game action through the 2013-14 season.
Hornqvist and Ericsson have now played more than 300 NHL games.
Among fellow blueliners in Trotman's 2010 draft class, only a handful of first- and second-rounders have solidified themselves as consistent, full-time NHL players, including Erik Gudbranson, Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk. Third rounder Radko Gudas earned himself a full-time role in Tampa.
Overall, just 15 other defensemen in his draft class have seen NHL action.
"Just put in the work," said Trotman, when asked to offer advice for later draft picks.
"It doesn't matter where you get drafted. You have the opportunity. It's all about what you do with it."