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For the first time since 2009, a Maine native was selected in the National Hockey League draft.
This time around, it was two kids who had their name called, Cumberland’s Brian Hart and South Portland’s Jon Gillies.
Hart, a forward, who attended Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire this past school year and will be attending Harvard in the fall, was selected in the second round, 53rd overall, by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I talked to Tampa in the spring at school and then again at the (NHL) Scouting Combine (in Toronto),” said Hart. “They were pretty high on my list and if I could gone anywhere it would have been Tampa.”
Hart who won the 2009 Class B state championship with Greely, spent the last two seasons at Phillips Exeter. This past year, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pound forward captained the hockey team. He had 31 goals and 34 assists for 65 points in 29 games.
Hart also spent his sophomore year at Brewster Academy, another prep school in New Hampshire.
“It wasn’t too nervewracking just because there’s nothing I can do anymore,” Hart said, of waiting on his name being called. “I played all year now, the interviews are all done, the combine is done. It was pretty much on all (the teams). I just had to sit and wait. It was a little nervewracking to see where I was going, but it was more exciting to be honest.”
In this day of age, of NHL teams signing their younger prospects faster, the Lightning will let Hart develop a few years at Harvard.
“They are fine with it,” Hart said, of what Tampa thought of him going to Harvard. “The coaches loved it, the scouts, I talked to them all year about it, they are pretty happy that I’m a college guy.”
Gillies, a goaltender, who played for the the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League, the nation’s top junior hockey league, and is bound for Providence College this upcoming season. He was selected in the third round, 75th overall by the Calgary Flames.
Gillies was the top draft eligible goaltender in the USHL this year. He had a 31-11-9 record with a 2.77 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in the regular season. He led the Ice to the Eastern Conference Finals before it fell to the Green Bay Gamblers, finishing with 3-3-0 record with a 2.84 GAA and a .911 save percentage in the postseason.
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t put it into words how honored, humbled and happy I am to be apart of their organization,” said Gillies. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Gillies originally committed to Northeastern while attending the Salisbury School in Connecticut in the spring of 2010. He decommitted from Northeastern this past March in what he said was a mutual decision between the school and himself. He committed to Providence College in May, where Hart’s older brother Kevin plays, after mulling an offer to play for his idol Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, who coaches the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“You couldn’t pick a better organization in the (Canadian Hockey League) than in Quebec, but I had to go to college,” Gillies said. “It’s something my family believes in so I had to do it.”
The Flames have all the confidence in him.
“They told me to play my game,” Gillies said. “They said they drafted me for a reason and they said they got a phenomenal goalie. Keep getting better, that’s what they told me and they have all the faith in the world in me they said.”
Both Hart and Gillies will keep their NCAA eligibility as long as they don’t sign a NHL contract and their respective NHL teams will hold onto their rights for four years. If left unsigned at that point, they become free agents.
Both players will take the ice in Lake Placid, N.Y. for USA Hockey’s World Junior Evaluation camp in early August. The World Junior Championships is an international event for players ages 16 to 20 and this year the event is taking place in Ufa, Russia from December 26 to January 5. USA won’t announce final roster until December.