When the Ottawa 67s traded their franchise player Travis Konecny last year, they aimed to receive a solid return and investment in their future. They got exactly that in the draft picks they acquired, as well as a rookie forward named Sasha Chmelevski.
Entering his NHL draft year, Chmelevski had a busy offseason. He represented the USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and attended the All-American Prospects Game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Draft Year Pressure?
There is a lot of pressure that comes with being touted as a first round NHL prospect; there’s the rankings, the tweets, and of course the need to consistently produce points and impress NHL scouts. So far, Chmelevski has been handling the pressure like a pro.
“You have to look at it as a challenge, every day get better, work hard and keep pushing through because it’s a long season and there is a lot of games to be played,” he said.
Even though the 2016-17 OHL season is young, Chmelevski has been close to a point-per-game pace with seven points in nine games. When asked what has been the key to his success to date, he replied very humbly: “My linemates do a good job at finding me, also just being around the net, a lot of goals are scored from the slot area.”
In terms of staying focused on his game and not being distracted by social media, Chmelevski says, “I try to keep it (rankings) out of my mind, I mean if someone were to remind me about it then that’s great, but at the end of the day we have a team here and it has to be team first.”
I said it before I'll say it again after the first preseason game. Sasha Chmelevski is a top 10 NHL draft pick in 2017. #KidsAPro
— Kenny Walls (@LongBallsWalls) September 3, 2016
Chmelevski benefits from having three former NHL players coaching and mentoring him behind the bench of the Ottawa 67s. Jeff Brown, Mike Eastwood and Brad Brown serve as the team’s head coach and assistant coaches, respectively.
“Jeff Brown tells me to keep it simple, he tells me not to look at Twitter or those kinds of things because they can get in your head,” Chmelevski said.
67s general manager and Head Coach Jeff Brown knows about the pressure that comes with being in your draft year. Brown has gone through it both as a player and most recently as a parent. Brown’s expectations are high for Chmelevski this year.
“He (Sasha) has been very good for us, there is no issues it’s just he’s squeezing the stick a little tight right now. He is a very solid player for us,” Brown said.
Chmelevski represented Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia this past August. He was the point leader for the U-18 tournament with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in five games played.
“There is a lot of pride on the line, we came up a little bit short in that tournament but it was an exciting experience for me,” he said.
With a strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and at the All-American Prospects game in September, Chmelevski is a contender to be named to Team USA for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Toronto and Montreal.
“It would mean the world, it would be great if USA Hockey could nominate me for that, but I just need to keep trying hard this season and see where the chips may fall,” Chmelevski said when asked what it would mean for him to be a part of the U.S. roster:
In his NHL draft year, Chmelevski is showing he has the maturity, skill and talent to take his game to the next level.