Last year at this time, Parker Kelly was heading to the nation’s capital as unsigned and undrafted prospect.
Now as he heads back to the Ottawa Senators camp this week, the Prince Albert Raiders does so with an NHL entry-level contract in his back pocket.
“It’s been a long journey to get to the point of where I’m at now, but it seems like it’s really flying by,” Kelly said.
“Every day has been fun over the last couple of years. The job that I’m doing is something that I love, so I can’t complain about it.”
Coming off a career best 59-point campaign last season, Kelly had a strong showing for the Senators at their development camp in July,
The Camrose, Alta. product shared the team’s Hardest Working Player Award with Brady Tkachuk, who the Senators selected with the fourth overall pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
“Obviously it’s a little bit different going into camp this year,” Kelly said. “You know the expectations of the organization now and they get even higher as you get older.
“There’s some experienced guys there and some new faces coming in, but I try not to think about that too much My goal is to try and improve on my previous showings there and hopefully get a spot on the team.”
The Senators prospects will be heading to Laval, Que. for a series of exhibition games later this week, where Kelly will square off against Raiders teammates Cole Fonstad and Ian Scott.
Fonstad was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round of June’s NHL Draft, while the Toronto Maple Leafs picked Scott in the fourth round in 2017.
“I played against Ian in the AHL (American Hockey League) last year and he got the best of me there,” said Kelly, who was called up to the Belleville Senators in April and faced Scott’s Toronto Marlies.
“I haven’t been able to get one by him yet, so that’s a goal of mine for sure this week.”
For Scott, who is attending his second Maple Leafs prospect camp, he’s hoping to build off of his experience this past spring as the Calgary native served as the third goaltender for the Marlies in their run to the Calder Cup title.
“I think that should help me out a lot,” Scott said. “I know many of the guys that are going to be there and I’ll feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year.
“It’s always exciting to be going to an NHL camp, and it’s going to be fun to play against some familiar faces from the Raiders. I know their secrets as well, so that might give me a bit of an advantage.”
As for Fonstad, the forward from Estevan is looking to make a strong impression in his first prospect camp with the Canadiens after he put together a 73-point campaign in his draft eligible season.
“I’m excited to reach some new goals with Montreal,” Fonstad said after being drafted in June. “I just tried to take everything as it came this past season and not overthink anything when it came to the draft.
“To be part of a Canadian team and one of the Original Six franchises is pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, newly named Raiders captain Brayden Pachal is headed to the Calgary Flames prospect camp.
After attending the Senators summer development camp last year, the Estevan product turned in a strong showing in Calgary in July to earn another look from the Flames.
“I have a really good idea of what to expect as the Flames gave me a number of things to work on during the summer,” Pachal said.
“The goal is of course to earn a pro contract, but there will be lots of things that I think I’ll learn from playing with the older guys and signed prospects that will be there. I hope to take some of that experience to help me here with the Raiders.”