Jordan Topping didn’t hear his name called at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in June, but that didn’t mean the end of his big league aspirations.
The Saltspring Island native, Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey product and former Cowichan Valley Capital, now playing left wing for the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans, was still able to get a taste of the professional lifestyle and realize he is still on the NHL radar when he was invited to the Dallas Stars development camp last month.
Needless to say, attending that camp was a pretty big deal.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” Topping said. “I learned a lot that week. It was something I’ll remember for a long time.”
After the draft, Topping wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, but a few teams expressed interest in bringing him to their development camps, and, after discussing the options with his agent, he picked the Stars, and attended the camp at the team’s practice facility in the Dallas suburb of Frisco.
Alongside dozens of Stars draft picks and other invitees, Topping was put through the paces by the Dallas coaches, both on and off the ice.
“There was a lot of skill work,” Topping recalled. “The whole week, they’re basically giving you tools to help guide you.”
The week-long camp gave Topping an idea of what he needs to do to reach the top level of the sport.
“They just said learn as much from the week as you can about the work ethic you have to have to be a pro,” he said. “They talked to me about the everyday stuff.”
After the camp, Topping was invited back to play for the Stars’ entry in the annual prospects tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings at Traverse City, Michigan in September.
“It’s nice,” he said of the honour. “Some of their college kids can’t go [because of NCAA eligibility rules], so it’s pretty cool to get a chance to do that. It’s pretty exciting.”
Going into the 2016 Entry Draft, Topping was listed 176th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final pre-draft rankings, making a late charge after not being ranked at all at the midway point.
“It was pretty crazy.” Topping said. “It was cool to even have my name listed.”
Topping, who turned 19 on July 20, played his minor hockey in the Cowichan Valley until he was 15, when he spent one year in the B.C. Major Midget League. He moved to the junior A Capitals in 2013-14, and recorded 10 goals and five assists in 51 games. His brother, Kyle, played for the Capitals as a 16-year-old last season.
In his first year in the WHL —2014-15 — Jordan had 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 56 games. He exploded in his second year to 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points — second on the team in both goals and points — in 72 contests. His penalty minutes also more than doubled from 37 as a WHL rookie to 79 as a sophomore.
Topping humbly shares the credit for his success last season with his teammates.
“I was just playing with some talented linemates,” he said. “My coaches had a lot of trust in me, and they gave me opportunities.”
His goal for next season is to help the Americans return to the WHL playoffs.
“Last year, we had a bit of a tough season; we didn’t make the playoffs. So this year is about team goals. Obviously, personally, I’d like to go for the draft again or sign a contract, and get to the next level.”