Zach Senyshyn heard the boos. He heard the talk about how the Boston Bruins reached for him with the 15th overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft. But he doesn’t care what those people think – he knows exactly who he has to impress.
“I don’t feel as if I need to prove people wrong [about ‘reaching’] as much as I have to prove the Boston Bruins organization was right in taking me,” he said. “Being able to show that I do well and play my best hockey and make those strides in my development — they showed a lot of faith in me and I want to work my hardest and develop.
“There are a lot of different lists out there, and every individual team has their own lists. Every team has what they’re looking for and what they want. You want to prove what you have to offer. If you fit well with a certain team – and I had great conversations with the Boston Bruins before the draft – and we have similar conversations.”
Senyshyn was selected during an odd run where the Bruins had three consecutive picks – 13th through 15th. Being at the draft and being a part of that was something special, he added.
“Draft Day is an incredible experience, and being a part of it and seeing one live is incredible. Showing up at the rink and seeing the Boston Bruins have traded for the 13th overall pick and the 15th overall pick. I knew that they talked to me in Florida and you always have your hopes, but anything can happen on Draft Day,” Senyshyn said. “It’s out of your hands and you’re just sitting in your seat waiting for that moment. I was really honoured to be chosen by the Boston Bruins.”
The pick that was used on Senyshyn was the one the team acquired from the Calgary Flames in return for promising young defenseman Doug Hamilton. Senyshyn said he doesn’t feel that’s pressure, but instead an opportunity for him.
“It’s a pretty cool experience to have that kind of tag on you – my pick was traded for Dougie Hamilton,” he said. “People will speculate around that, but there’s nothing I can do to prove to people other than developing this year and play my best hockey.”
He certainly started proving people wrong — or right, as is his preference – with his play this season. After having a strong season last year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, scoring 26 goals and adding 19 assists, Senyshyn finished this the 2015-16 campaign with 45 goals and 65 points. But more than the scoring, Senyshyn said he was focusing on stepping up off the ice.
“I played a lot more of a leadership role this year, especially coming back from the NHL and getting to play in an exhibition game there,” he said. “Learning from the older players last year who have made that jump – Darnell Nurse, Jared McCann, Nick Ritchie – these great players that taught me last year. They’re who led me, and now I’m trying to take the torch and help the younger guys to make the pro careers.
“It’s a big jump in the OHL and a lot of growing pains. I try to help them out and give them advice, but I kind of let them make their own paths.”
If he has any advice for his young, draft-eligible teammates, it is this.
“You know what. You want to be able to help your team win games and that’s all the NHL scouts are looking for,” he said. “I think if you’re able to show what you do well and what makes you unique as a player, that’s what’s going to get you your best results. Focus on that development and show the growth you can make in one year and that’s one thing I can share with them.”
Senyshyn said he brought the lessons he learned at the NHL camps to his game this season, and he is looking forward to continuing that development.
“I had an amazing experience there. Ever since I joined the organization it’s been huge for me. I learned a lot from the older players there and learned a lot at the main camp. It’s been a really cool experience, and I really enjoyed my ride there,” he said. “I’ve been working very closely with Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenburnner, the player development with the Bruins. It’s been a lot of fun working with them and working with former pros who had pretty incredible careers. It’s been a lot of fun to learn day in and day out with them, and then come back here and work on those things.
Senyshyn was born in Ottawa and has spent his entire career in the Soo. It’s something he said he truly appreciates.
“I love the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The fans are amazing,” he said. “It’s just such a hockey community, and to be able to go there and make it home for the last couple of years is incredible.”
And though Boston is a little bigger in scope (and, yes, that is an understatement), Senyshyn said he has seen some similarities – even if he got booed early on.
“The one thing that’s been the same is the amazing hockey community they have and all the support they have around the team,” he said. “Sometimes you take a little heat from it – after that draft, being kind of a controversial pick – to have been picked 15th overall, but it shows how much they passionately care about their team, and that’s what you want.”
Now in the offseason, Senyshyn wants to learn from his past experience and apply that learning to his offseason preparation.
“You see, in my first camp, you get to see the pros up close and personal and you get to see how big and strong and how at the top of the level they are,” he said. “It’s going to be a big year and summer in the gym for me. I need to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger so I can push my weight around in the pros.
“The goal is to be a Boston Bruin next year, and from this point on do whatever it takes to complete that goal.”
Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @