Bellingham native Shane Starrett never really thought about getting drafted by the NHL — until he realized he was off the radar.
When the league released a “players to watch” rankings in September, the goalie wasn’t listed.
Starrett’s South Kent School teammate, Anthony Florentino, was rated highly. At least four college or NHL scouts attended each game to see the high-scoring defenseman.
Another South Kent skater, Jason Salvaggio, was ranked, too.
“Once I saw my teammates were ranked, I started thinking about it a lot more,” Starrett said. “I realized this was something I really wanted. I wanted to be there too.”
So began a nine-month stretch in which Starrett became singularly focused. He initiated individual sessions with a goalie coach, had late-night workouts, and endured a few close calls with his boarding school’s strict 11 p.m. curfew.
“All in the name of hockey,” Starrett said with a laugh.
With the NHL draft set to begin Saturday in New Jersey, Starrett is the 15th-ranked North American goalie. He has committed to Boston University for the 2014-15 season, and hopes that getting claimed by an NHL team will launch his hockey career.
“The hard work he put in over the last year put him here,” said South Kent coach Matt Plante. “He really put himself on the map.”
Starrett attributes his ascent to the nightly workouts with Florentino, a 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound defenseman from West Roxbury.
Florentino, the draft’s 75th-ranked North American skater, has been the big man on campus ever since he enrolled at South Kent in 2010. He committed to Providence after his sophomore season, played for the Under-17 national team, and was featured in a Hockey News article as the face of South Kent’s resurgent program.
When Starrett enrolled at South Kent after three years at Catholic Memorial, Florentino was a familiar face.
Florentino was a childhood friend of Beau Starrett, Shane’s younger brother. Along with Starrett’s elder brothers — Pete, now 24, played for Harvard while Troy will captain Babson’s team next fall — the group often played street hockey in Bellingham.
The Starrett driveway is painted white and has nets with blue lines and circles painted in.
“Everyone in the neighborhood knows which house is ours,” said Anna Starrett, Shane’s mother.
At South Kent, Florentino lived on the floor above Starrett.
“But one day he just showed up at my door with all his stuff,” Florentino recalled. “And he moved in with me for the last four months of school.”
Convenient, because the two spent most of their time together anyway.
Starrett said Florentino “was looked at by pretty much every pro team since his freshman year. And I just wanted to get on his level. We both wanted to get better, so we knew we needed to work hard.”
At 9:45 every night, the duo would go to the campus gym for a regimented workout combining cardio and weightlifting. They hated not finishing their sets.
“So sometimes we would go up to the very last minute before the gym closed,” Florentino said.
At South Kent, an adult lives on each floor and checks in on students at 11 p.m. Sometimes, Florentino and Starrett were still at the gym.
“We were lucky because [Florentino] is in this kind of leadership position at our school,” Starrett said. “So we would abuse that and tell them we were helping clean up at the gym.”
Said Florentino, “Sometimes we would actually be helping clean up. But mainly, we were just finishing our workout.”
Throughout the year, Florentino noticed that Starrett’s legs were getting stronger. He also gained weight, from 170 pounds to about 180. He ran longer.
“The core and leg workout really helped him control the puck more,” Florentino said. “I noticed he had a lot more control of his body.”
On the ice, the improvements were tangible.
In 42 games last season, Starrett boasted a 1.96 goals against average with a .915 save percentage.
“There’s no question [Florentino] had a positive influence on Shane,” Plante said. “They really pushed each other. And by Christmas, you really saw an upswing in Shane’s performance.”
The scouts who were there to see Salvaggio and Florentino started to pay a little more attention to the goalie.
“All of the sudden some of the scouts and coaches I talked to started asking questions about him,” Florentino said.
“The guys know when there’s scouts in the stands — it’s hard to ignore,” Plante said. “But Shane never really got distracted by it. He just kept playing well.”
During the draft, Florentino will be on site in New Jersey to hear which team calls his name. Starrett, meanwhile, will watch at home in Bellingham, with a few close family members. It will be low-key. His name will likely be called at some point, but he isn’t too concerned about when.
Throughout it all, he’ll be texting Florentino. They are excited to see where they end up.