Drafted in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks was a dream come true for Illinois-native Alex Vlasic. The 18-year-old defenseman had just finished two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program where he put up 28 points (6g-22a) from the blueline. He’s projected to be a shutdown defender who consistently makes good first passes coming out of his own zone. For those wondering, yes he is related to 14 year NHL veteran Marc-Edouard Vlasic from the San Jose Sharks who also happens to be a shutdown defenseman. They’re cousins. But not the only hockey stars in the family.
Alex’s sister Emma Vlasic was a captain during her senior year at Yale University and just completed her first season in the NWHL with the Connecticut Whale. Alex may have the height advantage these days – he’s 6’6” and she is 5’7” – but she is a forward, and older by four-plus years and used to put the moves on her younger sibling. But they ultimately helped each other become the best players they could be.
“We always had a lot of fun growing up. My dad would build a rink in our backyard,” recalled Emma with a laugh. “I was the forward coming down 1-on-1 against him as a defenseman. Even though I was a bit older he was still very good at a young age. It was a lot of fun, we’re all pretty competitive in this house. We try to work out together when we are both at home.”
“Seeing his development has been amazing to watch,” she added. “It was surreal to see him get drafted by the Blackhawks, and when Chicago called him it was like – this is crazy! That’s the team that everyone around here grows up rooting for. Thinking about him maybe sharing the ice one day with the guys on our hometown team, I think it’s still sinking in for us.”
“I’m excited to see Alex out there with the big boys one day.”
I recently spoke with Alex Vlasic via telephone to find out what those games as kids were really like, his draft day experience, his freshman season at Boston University, and he gave his thoughts on three of the top prospects in the New Jersey Devils organization.
The Hockey Writers: Being drafted by the Blackhawks last summer had to be the ultimate dream scenario for you, right?
Alex Vlasic: It was definitely a surreal moment. I was just sitting there waiting for my name to be called and when the Blackhawks’ turn came up I had a little bit of a special feeling. I don’t know if that was just me being hopeful or whatever. It was just an unreal feeling.
THW: I know it’s usually a blur for kids drafted, but what do you remember about that day?
AV: Heading back to the arena I didn’t really know where I was going to be picked or what to expect. We were there the first night and obviously nothing happened, when we got there the second day I remember sitting next to my sister. When they started to announce Chicago’s pick and said: from the National Team Program – she looked at me and I think I said something like no way this is going to happen! And sure enough, it did.
Vlasic vs. Vlasic
THW: Emma is a little older than you and plays forward so what was it like defending against her growing up?
AV: There was always a little bit of a sibling rivalry between us two (laughs). Like you said I’m a few years younger than her, so for a while, it was pretty unfair. She would always dominate me on the ice but the gap started to close a little bit as I got older. She always pushed me to be the best person and best hockey player I could be and she has been a huge influence on my career.
THW: Because you’re a student at BU you had the opportunity to see Emma participate in the NWHL All-Star Game in Boston. I assume that was a pretty cool moment for you, right?
AV: Yeah it was funny how it worked out that way. It was awesome to see her do so well and her group won the Relay Race in the Skills Competition. I was definitely very proud.
The Devil(s) You Know
AV: All three of them are amazing guys, every single guy on our team was like that. There wasn’t one person that someone didn’t get along with. But I’ll start with Case because I go to BU with him, he’s selfless and in it for the team. I think Patrick is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met and he was one of my best buddies in the program. Hughesy is a fun guy to be around, really goofy and fun to hang with.
THW: As a defenseman how did practicing against a guy like Hughes help your game develop the past two seasons?
AV: I think playing against everyone was huge for all of our development, knowing that you are going against the best players in the country day after day in practice. It’s going to help your game tremendously and it 100% did for me. Playing against those different styles from the guys on our team. You had guys like Cole Caufield (drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, 15th overall) who is a little bit smaller, Hughes who is fast and shifty, and guys like John Beecher (drafted by the Boston Bruins, 30th overall) who is big and tough in the corners. It was unreal practicing with those guys and it’s cool to see how well they are doing right now. I’m very proud of them.
THW: Have you gotten any advice from your cousin?
AV: Not too much really. I did see him before the draft, he just wished me luck, told me that it doesn’t really matter where I go in the draft, and to just keep grinding.
THW: Looking ahead to your future how soon can you see yourself turning pro and/or making it to the NHL?
AV: I think for me ideally I would say play another year at BU and then I would hope to make the jump to either the minors and maybe even the NHL. But I think a lot of that depends on how I do this year and how the Hawks see me fitting in their organization. For me, that’s my goal right now.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.