Just two projected picks separate Medicine Hat Tigers David Quenneville and Max Gerlach entering today’s NHL entry draft. But when you break it down, there couldn’t be much more separating the duo, including a few thousand kilometres.
The pair of Tabbies border brothers fill equally important yet drastically different roles in the WHL, and come from very different backgrounds outside of it, but both are on the cusp of achieving their big league dreams.
“We’re kind of in the same boat here,” said Quenneville, who is ranked 144th among eligible prospects by NHL Central Scouting, while Gerlach is ranked 142nd. “We’ve obviously been waiting for this moment for a really long time and it’s really nice that it’s finally here.”
They’ll be taking in the draft from different countries, and if drafted, Quenneville would follow in the footsteps of his brothers, John and Peter, while Gerlach would be the first of his name to be called on draft day.
“Obviously nothing is a sure thing, but I’m definitely feeling excited about the next couple of days,” said Gerlach, adding he understands being overlooked at the draft doesn’t mean the end of the dream, as most recently Tigers goaltender Nick Schneider signed a pro contract with the Calgary Flames after missing out on the 2015 draft. “It’s going to be a very exciting day for us and our families but it’s also just another step in the process of getting to the NHL. Either way, it’s not going to make or break you so you’ve just got to take it in stride. If it happens it’ll be quite the day, but if it doesn’t we’ve just got to carry on as usual.”
The 18-year-old Texan sniper made his way up the ranks from way down south, and opted out of an NCAA commitment with North Dakota to pursue his NHL dreams full force. While North Dakota ended up winning the national championship this season, Gerlach stormed into the WHL without looking back and ended up with a team-leading 30 goals in his rookie season. Now he sits poised on the cusp of his dream.
“I definitely stand behind my decision,” said Gerlach, who added 15 assists this season. “I don’t think I’d be where I am on those lists and draft boards or anything like that if I didn’t go to Medicine Hat.”
Quenneville may have some assistance in the form of two brothers who have been through the Dub and into the draft before, but his path has in no way been set out for him.
The 18-year-old offensive blueliner become a staple in the Tigers franchise after posting a career high 14 goals and 41 assists in his second full season with Medicine Hat. He was also drafted higher than both brothers at 10th overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, and went on to compete with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
While he enters the draft as a lower projected pick than his brothers, he provides a huge amount of two-way upside for any prospective big league franchises. But having some brothers who have been there before doesn’t hurt either.
“Pete went in the seventh round to Columbus and Jonny was a first round pick, so I know it’s definitely a waiting game,” said Quenneville. “I’m just going to try and be patient and see how everything plays out.”
Quenneville added he doesn’t expect to get a phone call during this evening’s first round, he’ll definitely be watching in the hopes of seeing some of his Canadian teammates pull on a new jersey.
“I know I’m not going to go Friday, but a lot of buddies that I played with either at U17 or U18 World Championships are going to be going in the first round,” he said.
“That will be really exciting and Saturday I’m just hoping to go to a great team and hear my name called.”