Josh Anderson has realized his boyhood dream.
He’s now the property of an NHL team after the Colorado Avalanche selected him Saturday in the third round of the NHL draft, 71st overall.
The 17-year-old Prince George Cougars defenceman was in the building at First Niagara Center in Buffalo with his parents and grandparents from Vancouver Island when the Avs made their choice. He sat through the entire second round and finally, after 10 third-round picks, the Avalanche called his name.
"My dad (Chris) was basically waiting to pull his hair out, just waiting for my name to be called," said Anderson, who turns 18 on Aug. 29. "When my name popped up, everyone jumped out of their seats and we were more excited than anything. The names keep going by and by, then all of a sudden, your name is up there and it just hits you; you're drafted into the NHL and you couldn't be more excited.
"It's kind of a surreal moment, you don't know what to do or say, besides be happy about it and be excited."
Anderson walked down to the Avalanche draft table on the floor of the arena, where he was handed his team jersey and ball cap before meeting Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, general manager Joe Sakic and director of player personnel Brad Smith. Anderson said he and his agent Carlos Sosa did have discussions with Colorado scouts throughout the season, so it wasn't a complete shock when the Avs drafted him.
"I knew there was some interest there but I didn't know where and when I was going in the draft," he said. "I'm very excited to be drafted by Colorado. It's a great fit for my family and it's a great organization to be part of. It's a lot easier having my parents come and watch when it's not so far away."
Anderson, a bruising defenceman who likes to take the body, collected one goal and five assists in 39 games, along with 86 penalty minutes this past season with the Cougars. They picked him third overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
The six-foot-three, 215-pound Anderson missed nearly half the season with a broken back, suffered in January when he fell headfirst into the boards. He’s now fully recovered from his injury and has resumed skating at his home in Duncan.
"I know what I have coming along, just to get back in shape and be in the best shape possible," he said. "I just have to stay healthy. I had a couple injuries last year which probably bumped me a little bit in the draft. Next year I just have to stay focused and stay healthy and have the best season possible and hopefully sign a contract at the end of the season."
Anderson will join the rest of the Avalanche freshmen at their development camp, which starts July 5. He was due to return to his home in Duncan Sunday and leaves for Denver on Friday. He's been invited to the Avs' rookie camp which starts the second week of September.
At that camp, he will likely cross paths with former Cougars centre Troy Bourke, who played last season for the San Antonio Rampage, the Avs' AHL farm team in Texas. Bourke finished the season in the ECHL playoffs with the Fort Wayne Comets.
Anderson knows centre Tyson Jost, the first-round pick of the Avs, selected 10th overall on Friday, and Jost's Penticton Vees teammate, defenceman Dante Fabbro, who went 17th overall to Nashville. They all played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2014.
Three B.C. Hockey League players went in the first round and the Cougars own the WHL rights to one of them. Defenceman Dennis Cholowski (Chilliwack Chiefs), a native of Langley, was a 10th-round pick of the Cougars in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. He went 20th overall to the Detroit Red Wings. Cholowski is committed to St. Cloud State University next season.
Two other players on the Cougars' 50-player protected list were picked Saturday. Forward Riley Tufte (Blaine, Minn., high school; Fargo, USHL), a native of Coon Rapids, Minn., was the 25th overall pick, taken by the Dallas Stars. Tufte, a Minnesota-Duluth recruit, was added to the Cougars' protected list in July 2013.
In the third round, centre Rem Pitlick was chosen 76th overall by the Nashville Predators. Pitlick, a native of Plymouth, Minn., was an 11th-round choice of the Cougars in the 2012 WHL draft. Pitlick has signed to play for the University of Minnesota.
Thirty-four WHL players were selected in the draft, including first-rounders D Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen (picked 13th by Carolina), C Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors (27th overall, Tampa Bay), D Lucas Johansen of the Kelowna Rockets (28th overall, Washington); and C Sam Steel of the Regina Pats (30th overall, Anaheim).