Eric Comrie is carrying on the the tradition of Tri-City Americans goaltenders.
A native of Edmonton, Comrie was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round (59th overall) of Sunday’s NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
He is one one eight Tri-City goalies drafted in the last 25 years, and the third in eight years.
“It was the most amazing feeling. So hard to describe,” Comrie said of hearing his name called. “I am so happy to go to there (Winnipeg). They have one of the best fan bases in the NHL.”
The Colorado Avalanche had the first overall pick and chose center Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads. Highly touted Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones went fourth overall to the Nashville Predators.
In all, eight Western Hockey League players were chosen in the first round and 33 throughout the draft.
According to NHL Central Scouting Service, Comrie was the second-ranked goalie the draft behind Zachary Fucale of Halifax, but he slipped to late in the second round and was the third goalie taken behind Fucale (Montreal).
Tristan Jarry of the Edmonton Oil Kings went to the Pittsburgh Penguins (44th overall) and Philippe Desrosiers of Rimouski was taken by the Dallas Stars (54th) before the Jets called Comrie’s name.
“It’s a tremendous spot for him,” said Tri-City general manager Bob Tory, who was in New Jersey for the draft. “Winnipeg is a tremendous organization. He’s coming off the hip injury, and if not for that, he’s a legitimate first-round selection.
“Eric is very levelheaded and mature for his age,” Tory continued. “This is an opportunity to pursue his dream. His work ethic and preparation are second to none. I’m sure he will attain his goal of playing in the NHL.”
Comrie is the third in his family to be selected in the NHL draft. Brothers Mike (91st, Edmonton 1999) and Paul (224th, Tampa Bay 1997) got their names called when Eric was just a little tyke.
Mike and Paul, along with other family members, were with Comrie on Sunday.
“It was so amazing. My family has been there since Day 1 and have been so supportive,” Comrie said. “I am so happy I could be there with them.”
Even though he was drafted higher than his brothers, he doesn’t get to be king of the ice — just yet.
“Not yet,” Comrie said. “Mike and Paul both had NHL careers. I still need to make it.”
Comrie follows in the footsteps of Tri-City goalies Olie Kolzig (1st round, 19th overall, Washington), Brian Boucher (1st, 22nd, Philadelphia), Aaron Baker (6th, 143, Hartford), Blake Ward (9th, 285th, Colorado), Tyler Weiman (5th, 164th, Colorado), Carey Price (1st, 5th, Montreal) and Chet Pickard (1st, 18th, Nashville).
“It is such an amazing feeling. I have to thank everyone in Tri-City from the management to the coaching staff and most important the best fans in the WHL.” Comrie said. “Also, the best teammates that a person could ask for. They are the reason I am here.”Tory can take responsibility for drafting Price, Pickard and Comrie, but he’s also had some nice surprises along the way.
“We have had good goaltending for quite sometime, but not all of them have been drafted” Tory said. “Guys like Drew Owsley and Ty Rimmer have been good for us, but in junior hockey you are developing players whether they move on the NHL or become doctors, lawyers or firemen.”
It’s not known if the hip injury that cut short Comrie’s season had any part of where he was drafted.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I still am just so lucky I was fortunate to get drafted to a great organization.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound Comrie was in the midst of his first season as a starter for the Americans when he started to have pain in his hips. The pain started in November and continued to get worse.
The injury kept Comrie from displaying his skills at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in January.
Comrie was 20-14-1-2 in 37 starts last season, with a 2.62 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage, and two shutouts before he was shelved for the season Jan. 18.
Comrie had minor surgery on his left hip Feb. 5 in Vail, Colo., then had the right side done six days later. He had an extra piece of bone (cam impingement) on each femur, which was shaved down.
One Tri-City player who had hoped to hear his named called, was forward Connor Rankin.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Rankin finished third in team scoring last year with 58 points, and was second in goals with 32 behind Justin Feser’s 44. He also had a plus-9 rating and 34 penalty minutes in 71 games, but there were no takers on draft day.
“It's a sickening feeling,” Rankin said of being passed on. “I’ve worked 14 years for this day and not to get taken, it’s tough. My goal is to play in the NHL, and that is still alive.”
Rankin said he waited through the first five round before focusing his thoughts elsewhere.
“You are hoping to get picked and you wait all day,” he said. “There are a lot of players who get drafted and never make it in the NHL and those who don’t get drafted and get an opportunity. It’s what you do after the draft. This drives me to be a better player than I am now and prove those teams wrong.”
He can start with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who extended an invitation to their camp in September.
Americans defenseman Zach Yuen, who was taken in the fourth round in 2011 by Winnipeg, did not sign with the Jets at the June deadline and re-entered the draft. He also was not drafted Sunday.