Their paths to the National Hockey League are different, but their goals are the same.
Prince Albert Raiders veterans Parker Kelly and Vojtech Budik rejoin their team after recent stints at NHL preseason camps – Kelly with the Ottawa Senators and Budik with the Buffalo Sabres.
Each is entering his third season with the Raiders, and each is looking to help the team earn more wins this year than last.
Buffalo drafted Budik in the fifth round, 130th overall, in the 2016 entry draft. This year, the defenceman attended his second preseason camp with the Sabres.
Meanwhile, Kelly went undrafted in 2017, his first year of eligibility. Instead he worked his way through summer at a development camp and a rookie showcase, which eventually landed him a three-year, entry-level contract signing with the Senators.
Now recently returned from their respective NHL camps, Kelly and Budik are looking to use the pro-level experience at the junior level with the Raiders.
“I have a little bit more confidence with the puck now. I’ve been at that higher level, I hope I can bring that (to the team),” Kelly said of what he hopes to contribute, noting he feels that his pace has also increased after his time with Ottawa.
The centre also said he hopes time spent with some of the Sens’ veterans, like Dion Phaneuf, Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard, will rub off onto him as he continues in a leadership role with the Raiders as one of its alternate captains.
“I hope those are a couple attributes I can bring back,” he said.
Kelly said he connected particularly with Phaneuf, who was also born in Alberta: The elder defenceman was born in Edmonton and the younger forward was born approximately 100 kilometres southeast in Camrose.
Phaneauf knew that Kelly went undrafted this year, and he told him, “just keep working hard and that good things would come my way,” Kelly said.
In Buffalo, Budik says he connected with some of the team’s veterans, too, including defencemen Jake McCabe and Josh Gorges.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 27 print edition or e-edition of the Daily Herald.