VANCOUVER -- Case McCarthy couldn't fall back asleep after he awoke 4 a.m. Saturday in Vancouver.
The 18-year-old Clarence Center native knew he would be an NHL draft pick by the end of the day; however, he was unsure when his name would be called on the floor of Rogers Arena. That moment arrived in the fourth round when the New Jersey Devils selected McCarthy 180th overall.
McCarthy, a right-shot defenseman, became the latest player from Western New York to be drafted, the next step in a journey that began on an outdoor rink in his family's backyard.
"You start to get a little impatient," McCarthy said while wearing his red Devils jersey. "My leg started tapping a few times. My mom had to calm me down like always. She grabbed me and told me to breathe. It’s something where obviously you want to go high. The wait is kind of the fun part. When it’s over, it’s a sigh of relief that you know where you’re going. It’s tough, but I’m glad it’s over. I’m definitely glad to be a Devil."
McCarthy spent the past two years at the USA Hockey National Development Team Program, which also produced the draft's first overall pick: center Jack Hughes, who also was selected by the Devils. McCarthy had five goals among 29 points in 62 games this past season, adding four points in six games during the United States' bronze-medal run in the IIHF World Under-18 Championships.
The performance led McCarthy to be ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the 77th-best North American skater in this draft. The 6-foot-1 defenseman has impressed scouts with his offensive ability, but he saw little time on the NTDP's power play because his coach, John Wroblewski, wished to see McCarthy improve in his own zone.
Wroblewski told The Buffalo News this month that teams have yet to see McCarthy's "best." Though McCarthy was anxious during the day, he anticipated the Devils could be his destination. After all, he met with General Manager Ray Shero's staff throughout the season, including during the scouting combine in Buffalo.
"You know where you’re going, so now you’re focused on your summer and continuing to get better," McCarthy said. "Take it day by day now. The wait is over."
McCarthy left home at age 14 to play for the Mississauga Rebels in the Greater Toronto Bantam Hockey League and returned to Western New York, where he competed with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. He has spent his summers training with the Academy of Hockey in Harborcenter, where the scouting combine was held earlier this month.
McCarthy became an alternate captain during his season with the NTDP Under-17 team and was elevated to captain upon the promotion of a few teammates.
However, he suffered a season-ending LCL tear in his right knee that limited him to 41 games. The injury did not require surgery, but it prevented him from competing in the postseason and kept him off the ice at a critical time in his development.
McCarthy will head to Boston University, where he hopes to compete for a national championship as a freshman. Following his selection Saturday, he didn't even have enough time to ask Devils brass when he needed to report for the team's development camp.
After all, McCarthy was planning to move to Boston on July 1. Those details could wait. When McCarthy spoke to reporters shortly after he was picked, he was still processing all he accomplished and the sacrifices made to make it possible, including those by his parents Joe and Elizabeth.
"It’s very special to come from Western New York," McCarthy said. "Obviously a big hockey market, to possibly be a leader for some of these younger kids growing up and kind of being a role model for some of these young guys. It’s something I’m looking forward to being and something I’ll take pride in for sure."
Story topics: Buffalo Sabres