Jacob Ingham hardly had any time to let the experience sink in. In the sixth-round of the NHL Entry Draft, in Dallas, Texas, he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings.
With the Kings development camp set to begin a couple of days later, the Mississauga Steelheads goaltender needed to find a way back to his hometown of Barrie to pick up his goalie gear and grab a flight to Los Angeles.
He booked a flight to California from Toronto Pearson International Airport at 10 a.m. the next morning, but getting back to Canada was a challenge. He flew out of Dallas to Baltimore, where his connection to Buffalo Niagara International Airport would end up being delayed an hour. He got to Buffalo at 2 a.m. but, once there, his luggage was lost. An hour later they got in the car and drove to Barrie, arriving at 5:30 a.m.
“I didn’t sleep and I didn’t eat anything,” said Ingham, who needed to beat rush-hour traffic to get to the Toronto for around 8 a.m. “It was pretty much go home, pack my bags and take a quick shower. The family was with me and it was back in the car and off to Toronto. It was pretty funny, but I’m lucky to have this experience, have this opportunity ahead of me.”
Despite the whirlwind few days, Ingham wouldn’t change a thing. Hearing his name called by the Kings with the 175th overall pick on June 23 is an experience he will always cherish.
“I waited through almost six full rounds and I thought like it was never going to happen,” said the 18-year-old in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “Just hearing my named called … I gave the biggest hugs to my parents ever because they’ve done the most for me and they’ve been the best role models for me in my life.”
The preparation and work for this day started almost 15 years ago, when he first fell in love with the game. While there’s plenty of process left with having him play his way to an NHL contract and breaking into the league, he’s put himself in position to take that next step.
“It’s something special to have it happen and to have the paths start to align,” said the six-foot-three, 185-pound former Barrie Colts triple-A minor midget, who had his parents, sister and cousin Austin Heinrich, also his best friend, with him at the draft.
Ingham finds it funny now that the first NHL organization he ever talked to was the Kings, when they interviewed him as a 16-year-old rookie with the Steelheads. The Kings talked to him again during this season and at the NHL Combine before the draft.
“It sounded really positive,” he said. “They liked what I was doing. Going into the draft I wasn’t too sure. I didn’t really have (Los Angeles) honestly as one of the teams that were going to take me and it was a nice surprise.”
Ingham wasn’t the only player with local connections that had their NHL draft day dreams come true.
His Steelheads teammate and Mississauga native Ryan McLeod didn’t have to wait too long before hearing his named called when the Edmonton Oilers selected the centre with their second-round pick (40th overall).
“It’s a dream come true,” said the six-foot-two, 206-pound forward, who had a breakout year with Mississauga after recording 26 goals and 44 assists in 70 games. “You think about it when you’re a kid and I couldn’t be any happier to be in Edmonton. It’s just such a relief to be with such a great franchise.”
An Oilers fan growing up, McLeod’s favourite player was long-time Edmonton winger Ryan Smyth, who was known almost as much for his long flowing hair as he was for his ability to put the puck in the net.
“I just loved the way he played and I loved his hair too,” said McLeod, whose older brother and Steelheads teammate Michael McLeod was a first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2014.
Ryan won’t have an opportunity to play with the retired Smyth, but he hopes to one day get the chance to play with Connor McDavid, one of the NHL’s biggest young stars.
It was only 12 picks later, in the second round, that Sean Durzi’s dreams of playing with his favourite NHL team came true when the Mississauga native was drafted 52nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The smooth rushing defenceman, who was passed over in last year’s NHL draft, had an impressive 15 goals and 49 points in just 40 games in his third season with the Owen Sound Attack.
Mississauga resident and towering blueliner, Kevin Bahl was also drafted in the second round, going 55th overall to the Arizona Coyotes. The six-foot-six, 216-pound defender was a physical force on the Ottawa 67’s back end. Bahl, who logged a ton of minutes for rebuilding 67’s team, had a goal and 17 assists in 58 games.
The Dallas Stars drew a loud roar from the hometown crowd when they grabbed Mississauga native Riley Damiani in the fifth-round (137th overall). The centre had a strong showing in his sophomore season with the Kitchener Rangers, setting career highs with 19 goals, 18 assists and 37 points. A strong two-way forward, the 18-year-old five-foot-10, 165-pound forward often found himself with the task of shutting down the opposing team’s top lines.
For Ingham, he’s happy taking in his first pro skate with the Kings and is looking forward to getting home to his family in Barrie after the four-day camp. He’s also looking forward to meeting up with his grandparents who came down from Sault Ste. Marie to take care of the family dog while they were at the draft.
They decorated the Ingham home with black and silver streamers and Los Angeles Kings balloons.
“They were pretty excited, so I told them not to take the decorations down until I get home and can kind of take a deep breath,” said Ingham, who also got to FaceTime his other grandparents, who live in Winnipeg, at the draft in Dallas.
ICE CHIPS: Ingham will have a familiar face on the ice with him at Kings camp. Steelheads defenceman Jacob Moverare was a fourth-round pick (112th overall) of the Los Angeles in the 2016 NHL draft. . . Mississauga players taking part in their second NHL development camps include Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers), Michael McLeod (New Jersey) and Nicholas Hague (Vegas Golden Knights). Free agent Steelheads players invited to NHL development camps this week include goalie Emanuel Vella (New York Islanders) and winger Michael Little (Nashville Predators).
Photo: Mississauga Steelheads goaltender Jacob Ingham was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Terry Wilson/OHL Images photo