Many times over the past decade I've seen a young player come into the Thunderbirds organization and thought to myself, that guy has a chance to be something special. It doesn't always work out that way though. For whatever reason some players never realize their full potential or they plateau at 17.
A few years back when I saw Brandon Troock play his first game for the T-birds I got that sense. It was a New Year's Eve game down in Portland and Troock was still just 15 years old, I thought this kid could be very good in time. Just about every shift he skated that night he camped out in the slot and made it his home. He was strong on the puck. I couldn't wait to see what he could do with a full season in the WHL as a 16 year old.
Well, the story has been told now dozens of times of how a nerve issue in his neck cost him his entire 16 year old season and nearly his hockey career. But Troock didn't give up and the T-birds didn't give up on him, sending him to specialist until a proper diagnosis was made and the right treatment prescribed.
Flash forward to this season. Troock, finally healthy, gets the green light to play in October. A year behind in his development he's inconsistent over the first half of the season and then has to deal with another injury scare in a game up in Kamloops that costs him more ice time. Still, the glimpses of what he can be as a player are there.
Troock wasn't originally scheduled to play in the Top Prospects Game in Kelowna on Tuesday. The missed playing time had him still a bit under the scout's radar. But a little irony changes the situation. Troock, a player who has missed a major portion of the start to his Major Junior career due to injury, is named an injury replacement and added to the roster for Team Orr.
In a script right out of Hollywood, not only does Troock play in the game but he scores the game winning goal in overtime and is named the Team Orr Player of the Game (he also figured in on Team Orr's goal in regulation and just missed a scoring chance back in the first period).
Troock will need to come back to the T-birds and continue to make progress in all areas of his game over the next month and a half but his play in that game Tuesday has probably dramatically improved his draft status for the NHL Entry Draft this June. He was the 90th ranked North American skater in the midseason rankings of draft eligible players. That's probably around 4th or 5th round status. It's very possible now though, that he could move up even into the 2nd round.