It's hard to imagine draft weekend starting off much worse for Tyler Weiss. It ended with Weiss just missing out on making one kind of North Carolina hockey history but still making another.
Weiss and his family were on the Dallas-bound flight that had to return to RDU for an emergency landing on Thursday and their arrival at the NHL draft was delayed a day. After watching several former teammates go in the first round Friday night, the Nebraska Omaha-bound center from Raleigh just missed out on becoming the highest-drafted player ever to come out of the state, going 109th overall to the Colorado Avalanche, but is the first to come organically out of the market.
“It gives kids hope,” Weiss said. “I came from the bottom. Struggles. Issues with money. I had to move away when I was 14. It gives kids the hope that they can make it. Their dads, they don't need to play in the NHL. They don't need connections. My dad's a beer-league ref. They can make it on their own if they work hard and don't let anybody stop them or get in their way.”
Weiss downplayed the emotional hardship of the three hours spent burning off fuel Thursday morning – “My brother slept through the whole thing,” Weiss said. “He woke up and thought we were in Dallas” – but the wait Saturday was agonizing, especially when the Arizona Coyotes, with the 73rd pick, took “from the U.S. National Team Development Program, Ty... Emberson."
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Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes, who never interviewed Weiss at the combine or in Dallas, passed on him twice with the 96th and 104th pick even though Weiss literally grew up down the street from PNC Arena.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Weiss admitted, but he was also still shaking from the happy adrenaline of hearing the Avalanche call his name long after he exited the draft floor.
In local draft history, Weiss falls in just behind Josh Wesley, the son of former Hurricanes defenseman Glen who the Hurricanes took 96th in 2014, and gives the Triangle a two-year run of draft picks, following Skyler Brind'Amour's seventh-round selection by the Edmonton Oilers last year. But as Weiss pointed out, both Wesley and Brind'Amour had a leg up in the hockey world. Weiss, who went from Raleigh to Virginia to Toronto to Michigan chasing his hockey dream, did not. His brother Ryan even had to quit hockey so Tyler could keep playing.
“It's been a long journey,” Weiss said. “We've been through a lot of adversity. We've been working for this day for such a long time and it finally paid off.”
He may not have set a record, but Weiss made Triangle hockey history all the same.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock