CANMORE – The 2020 NHL draft is Oct. 6-7 and a former Canmore Eagles star forward's name has been tossed around as a prospect to keep an eye on.
The anticipation leading up to the draft has been an exciting time for 19-year-old Alex Young, a two-time AJHL all-star with the Eagles, and early projections have the five-foot-11, 181-pound Calgary-native being selected in the fifth round of the entry draft.
“As a kid, everyone always dreams of being drafted, and to me, it doesn’t really matter what round I go, or if I even go at all, but just to see my name up there and to see an NHL team next to it is kind of surreal,” Young said.
After spending three seasons with the local Junior A hockey club, Young, a monster on the score sheet, is attending Colgate University in upstate New York. After a previous disappointment of not being selected in the 2019 entry draft, things are looking a lot different this time for the talented centre.
"I feel like I would be happy with any team willing to take me," Young said. "Being born and raised in Calgary, playing for a hometown team would be a dream come true."
Growing up a Flames fan is expected for the Calgary-born prospect, however, it was a right winger with buckets of swag south of the border that caught Young's eye at an early age.
Young was drawn to Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his highlight reel of ridiculously smooth stick handles and jaw-dropping goals. On the ice with Canmore, Young grew into a constant threat to score with swiftness, quick hands and capability of making big game-changing plays like Kane, often leaving Eagles head coach Andrew Milne in awe in his stunning abilities.
“Alex is a special player and he does things on the ice you can’t teach or can’t coach,” said Milne.
Milne added that he would rank Young as a top five Eagles forward in the past 10 years.
Young joined the Eagles as at 16, alongside older brother Colton, who was captain of the team in 2018-19.
Young said it was a tough transition at the start to compete against bigger and older players in the unforgiving Canadian hockey landscape.
The shy teenager mostly gravitated towards Colton during his first season, seeking advice on his game and challenging each other with a brotherly bond.
Once Young got on the ice, he was at his “most comfortable, [and] he didn’t look back.”
“You knew at a young age that he was going to be good,” said Milne. “His ability to see the ice, his ability to compete against bigger stronger guys, to his willingness to work at getting better, was evident. It was obvious to us.”
Milne noticed Young made a jump in skill level from age 17 to 18, becoming more vocal with his teammates and demonstrating an ability to make teammates better.
Young was performing at such a high level at that point, he made the NHL’s players to watch scout list in 2018 and was eligible to be drafted after the 2018-19 season. A prospect can be drafted from ages 18 to 20.
However, no NHL team took a shot at the kid from Calgary that year. It was a “disappointing” moment, but being overlooked was a wake-up call for Young.
Young’s statistics the past three years stand out as one of the elite offensive forces in the AJHL, and landed him on two south all-league teams in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
In 172 regular season games with the Eagles, the centre scored 91 goals and had 206 points and is second all time in goals for the Eagles and third all time in points.
During his last season in Canmore, Young scored 36 goals and 82 points in 53 games. It landed the assistant captain as the fifth highest scorer in the league and ninth overall in points. He was an AJHL MVP finalist that season.
The prospect’s final year with the Eagles particularly personifies why the 19-year-old’s name is inked down on NHL teams’ draft lists this time around.
The 19-20 season was filled with accolades for Alex Young @canmoreeagles, which began with a Top Forward Award at the @JCWC_en. He was the Eagles scoring leader, MVP at the CJHL Prospects Game, a finalist for AJHL MVP and #145 on @NHLCentralScout Final Draft Rankings. #AJHLRewind pic.twitter.com/B9usqWSjKB— TheAJHL (@TheAJHL) April 24, 2020
Selected to play for Team AJHL at the Sirius Club World Cup in Russia last August, Young was voted best forward of the tournament after helping to secure a silver medal in Russia’s version of the world junior tournament.
A few months later in December, Young competed for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge tournament.
Following the world junior A’s, the rising star played in the CJHL Prospects Game in January, representing Team West in the 15th annual showcase that has 40 prospects from coast-to-coast.
Over 200 scouts from the NHL, NCAA, U SPORTS and the CHL carefully examine the game hoping to see signs of the next hockey star – and Young certainly didn’t disappoint, being named the West’s player of the game with a two-goal, three-point night to lock in a 6-4 win for the West.
The former Eagles star was also selected second overall for on-ice testing prior to the prospect games, where athletes are evaluated in 10 different skating tests.
“I think he sent a direct message after being named player of the game,” Milne said. “He was on a mission that year.”
Describing himself as an average player before coming to the Eagles, Young has a lot to be thankful for for his time in Canmore.
“Jumping to Canmore was one of the things that really raised my development and gotten me to where I am now and just having those opportunities playing there brought me the scholarship and now a draft opportunity,” he said.
As for the upcoming draft, the realities of being on university campus during a pandemic means get-togethers are limited – even for a potential NHL draftee looking to have some people over for a small party.
Instead, Young plans to be on a call with his parents and brother while watching the pick updates inside his dorm room.
“Just having my name tossed around a couple times, being ranked, it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to," he said. "I'm feeling excited for the anticipation of draft day."