It was a night that Parker Kelly will never forget.
Not only did the former Prince Albert Raiders forward make his National Hockey League debut on Wednesday night, but he also scored his first career goal for the Ottawa Senators during their 4-3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This is crazy,” Kelly said to the media after the game. “I didn’t think it (his debut) would go like this.
“I just feel very blessed to have gotten an opportunity and I just want to thank all the people that believed in me and supported me all the way up.”
Kelly, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Friday, gave the Senators a 3-1 lead at the 12:12 mark of the middle frame.
Moments after he drew a penalty off of a hit by Maple Leafs blueliner Morgan Rielly, Kelly took a shot from the side of the net that went off of netminder Frederik Andersen and crossed the goal line.
“I think that was the first time I touched the puck,” Kelly said after becoming the eighth Senators player to score in his NHL debut. “I’m still in shock.
“Branny (defenceman Erik Brännström) took a shot that went short side wide and came back off of the end wall. I just tried to get a stick on it and I kind of fanned on it (the shot). I saw the goalie (Andersen) try to scramble to get it off the line but I didn’t know (I had scored) until I saw Timmy (forward Tim Stützle) celebrating and the ref pointing towards the goal.”
The Camrose, Alta. product has spent the last two seasons in the American Hockey League as a member of the Belleville Senators, where he has 18 goals and 11 assists in 85 games.
“Obviously everyone’s faster and stronger (in the NHL) and there’s bigger bodies out there, but the game is still the same,” Kelly said.
“I didn’t feel out of place out there. I thought I fit right in and hopefully I can come back stronger next year and create an opportunity for myself on the team.”
Kelly is the second player from the Raiders 2018-19 Western Hockey League championship squad to play in the NHL, as forward Noah Gregor has suited up in 58 games over the last two seasons for the San Jose Sharks.
Blueliner Brayden Pachal, who was the captain for that team, is currently on the taxi squad for the Vegas Golden Knights after being called up from their AHL affiliate in Henderson, Nev. on Tuesday.