Colorado College’s Gustav Olofsson watched on from his Broomfield, CO, home as Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks began taking their rounds hoisting the Stanley Cup following the Blackhawks wild, come-from-behind 3-2 Game 6 victory.
“It gives you chills to see them lift the cup,” said the 2013 NHL Draft prospect. “It’s what you are eventually playing for. You work for every day. It really puts things into perspective about how hard you have to work and how hard it is to win that trophy.”
Fellow Colorado native and Denver Pioneer Quentin Shore may disagree with Olofsson on whose team is going to take home the Battle for the Gold Pan this year, but Shore agreed watching the Stanley Cup Finals was another motivator to keep working towards his NHL dream.
“It’s always been all of our dreams to play in the NHL and just seeing them here makes you want to work even harder, and hopefully we can get to that point and be in the situation one day.”
The next step on that journey begins Sunday for the two future National Collegiate Hockey Conference rivals. Olofsson, Shore, and the hundreds of other NHL draft-eligible players will wait in anticipation of hearing their names called Sunday when the 2013 NHL Draft takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Olofsson, a 6-foot-2 defenseman, is coming off a successful rookie season in the USHL after notching two goals and 21 assists and was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team. The 190-pounder brings an interesting blend of European and North American style of play to the ice after playing youth hockey in California before returning to his native Sweden in 2009.
A year later, Olofsson returned to the U.S. and suited up for the Colorado Thunderbirds, where he registered five goals and 10 assists. The defender was then selected by the Green Bay Gamblers in the second round of the 2011 USHL Entry Draft.
As the days, hours, minutes and seconds continue to count down towards Sunday, the excitement continues to build, he says.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Olofsson said. “Whatever happens, happens. You have put in the work now up to this point and just are looking for an opportunity. I think I had a good year and showcased myself in the way I wanted, and now it’s out of my hands and you can hope for the best.”
Hoping for the best is something Shore understands all too well after being passed over in last year’s NHL Draft after a successful two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program. Shore, a 6-foot center, used that as motivation this past season by scoring 10 goals and nine assists in 39 games for the Pioneers.
The freshman showed a late offensive spark over his final games, scoring three goals in the Pioneers final four games, and demonstrated glimpses of the talent he displayed at the NTDP when he led Team USA with eight game-winning goals.
“I’m pretty excited for it,” Shore said of the NHL Draft. “Because I had a great freshman year I have pretty high expectations going into it. My year kind of showed I can play at a higher level and hopefully teams will see that and take me pretty high.”
Earlier this year, Shore played in the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game and said that he didn’t want to let being passed over in the 2012 NHL Draft weigh on his mind too much. But of course, it was something that drove him day in and day out this season.
Rightfully so, after the Denver native finished with 17 goals and 10 assists in 60 games for the U.S. Under-18 team two years ago. He also was a part of Team USA’s gold-medal winning squad at the IIHF 2012 U18 World Junior Championship.
“It was just kind of like a letdown last year,” Shore said. “Every time you step onto the ice or something its always in the back of your mind. The worst situation happened last year not getting drafted. All you can really do is work harder and show teams you deserve to [be drafted].”
Shore’s brothers, Nick and Drew, both offered advice to their younger sibling. Nick was a third-round selection of Los Angeles in the 2011 NHL Draft, and Drew made his NHL debut this season for the Florida Panthers after being selected in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
“Their biggest thing was (teams) can put you down, but you just have to work harder and just show teams why they made a mistake last year and pick you this year,” Quentin said. “There is always going to be another day.”
Olofsson is hoping to set the standard for his brother Fredrik, who will be playing junior hockey for Green Bay this year and is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. Frederick is also a Colorado College commit.
The brothers and their family are headed to New Jersey this weekend for the draft, where Gustav is a potential second or third-round draft pick.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Olofsson said. “They are the ones I want to share it with. They have put in all this time, and money, for me and to finally see it pay off a little bit is something I want to share with them.”
Olofsson and Shore are both proud of the growth of Colorado hockey and have seen the other at times on the ice. Olofsson took in a CC-DU game earlier this year and came away impressed with Shore’s hockey IQ, while Shore remembers skating with the Swedish skater in past summers as a kid.
Both prospects understand that regardless of what happens on Sunday, the same thing remains true for when they wake up on Monday morning.
“I’m hoping I’m waking up with the team that owns my rights,” Shore said. “Monday is going to be awesome, but Monday is another work day. I just have to go into the gym and get better.”
Olofsson was right on par with his future I-25 rival.
“That’s when the hard work really begins,” Olofsson said. “Now everything is coming into play, and once that happens you know it’s all getting closer and you have to keep working.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter via @jfelisko