Sam Kurker has envisioned playing professional hockey since he was 6.
At ponds in Reading and in his driveway, he would create an on-ice scenario in which he would deliver a game-changing play in the National Hockey League.
On Sunday, the 18-year-old Kurker was in St. Louis for his official introduction to the NHL, his first day of the Blues’ five-day rookie development camp. Last month, the recent St. John’s Prep grad was selected by St. Louis in the second round of the NHL entry draft, the 56th pick overall.
The high-scoring 6-foot-2 right wing is headed to Boston University on scholarship this fall, but this week’s camp allowed Kurker to get his first taste of pro hockey.
The draft “was so surreal,” said Kurker, who finished his senior season with 32 goals and 28 assists in Prep’s drive to the Super 8 semifinals.
“Last year I watched it on TV and thought how cool it would be to be there and hear my name being called. My dad always says that there is someone better than you, so I know that I have to keep working hard and keep chasing my dream.”
Paul Kurker, who played hockey at Union College in the late ’80s, said that the draft was like Christmas, but you didn’t know if you were going to get a gift.
“Once they said his name, you just went whoa, it actually happened,” said the elder Kurker. “As a parent you’re happy and relieved and all those emotions of all those years watching him progress and grow really comes out. It’s a great feather in the cap, but like life and in sports, it’s about what tomorrow brings. And Sam knows that hockey is an unforgiving sport and you need to work harder than the next guy to make it.”
Sam Kurker knows that the draft was just the beginning.
From the time he was that 6-year-old practicing at the local pond, he hoped that one day he would don a jersey for Boston University. He attended every Beanpot championship except one.
He had intended to play junior hockey this coming year, with his BU commitment slated for 2013. But when a scholarship opened up earlier this summer, he quickly accepted the offer at a meeting in BU coach Jack Parker’s office earlier this summer.
“I didn’t really want to play a year of juniors because I felt that I was ready,” Kurker said. “BU was always a dream of mine and I hoped it was going to work out.”
He moved into his BU dorm on July 2, joining a talented freshman class that also includes Belmont Hill’s Matt Grezelcyk, drafted 85th overall by the Bruins, and Malden Catholic’s Brendan Collier, selected 189th by the Carolina Hurricanes. Collier spent last week in Raleigh for the ‘Canes rookie conditioning camp.
Kurker will wear number 22 as a Terrier, not the familiar number 9 he donned at Prep.
“This past year, I’ve trained the hardest I’ve ever trained, getting ready for BU workouts and the NHL combine,” Kurker said.
In preparation for the rugged Hockey East, he has been working out three mornings per week at 6 with the head trainer at Boston University, Anthony Morando.
“There’s a reason why he’s going to BU,” Morando said. “He’s big, he’s strong, and his best attribute is that he always wants to know what he can do to get his body better. He never feels like he’s dominated. Others may think he has, but he doesn’t. Now all he needs is experience, once he gets his feet wet, I expect nothing but good things to come.”
But after five days in St. Louis, which included early morning lifts, rink visits, downtown explorations, and a Dave Matthews Band concert, Kurker knows where his focus will be.
“It’s still so unreal. I still can’t believe it. Everything has been moving so fast,” Kurker said. “Right now I’m getting ready for the future, but once I get back home, I know my focus will be at BU.”Ryan MacInnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.