Mike Hardman: Undrafted and Undaunted
Photo Courtesy of BCEagles.com
The NHL Entry Draft is a special event. In 2019, 217 names were called and 217 dreams were fulfilled. Incoming Boston College freshmen had plenty of reason to celebrate. Matthew Boldy and Marshall Warren were selected by the Minnesota Wild. The Colorado Avalanche took Alex Newhook and Drew Helleson. And Florida made Spencer Knight the highest-drafted goalie since 2010.
One player who didn’t hear his name called was Mike Hardman. The 20-year old winger watched as teams opted for other players over-and-over again. For Hardman, 2019 was the last chance he had to hear his name called on the draft stage. It was also his best chance.
"Last year was the year where I was talking to the most teams," Hardman said. "I talked to like six of seven teams last year. It was a year that I considered myself maybe getting picked."
Playing for the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL during the 2018-19 season, Hardman scored 39 goals, good for second in the league and one more than Newhook. He also took home the Bob Fenton Trophy, which is voted on by the league's coaches and is awarded annually to the player who "exhibits the fundamental aspects of sportsmanship while excelling at the game."
NHL draft rules are more confusing than other major sports, but the gist is that players have three years of draft eligibility. To make the cutoff for a particular year’s draft, a player has to be at least 18 on September 15 but not older than 20 on December 31. That’s why some players get drafted before entering college, while others, like Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel, have to wait until after their freshman year. Come February, Hardman will be 21, making him ineligible for the 2020 Entry Draft.
While Hardman will no longer have the opportunity to hear his name called on draft night, he does have the freedom of being able to choose which team he continues his hockey career with after his time at BC. He has the opportunity to sign with any NHL team as an undrafted free agent, and each summer he is unsigned, he can be invited to any NHL team's development camp.
This past summer, just days after the draft, the Hanover, MA native received a special invite, one from his hometown Boston Bruins. For three days in late June, Hardman got to skate at Warrior Ice Arena with some of the Bruins top prospects, including Jack Studnicka and John Beecher.
"It was a blast, obviously talking to [the other players]," Hardman said. "A lot of the college guys hung out there. It was cool talking to Bruce Cassidy and a bunch of the guys in upper management. It was a dream come true."
Prior to the draft and his season with West Kelowna, Hardman spent a season with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Coming from Xaverian Brothers High and the Winchendon School in his home state, the transition to the midwest was a big one but one that helped Hardman grow as a player.
"I loved it out there [in Des Moines]," Hardman said. "It was an awesome experience. Going out to Iowa, and to British Columbia, it was an awesome experience getting to live with billet families and play with new players."
Through his first third of a season with the Eagles, Hardman is sixth on the team with 10 points. Hardman described himself as a physical player but one with a shoot-first mentality. Being linemates with Newhook and Aapeli Rasanen has allowed Hardman to excel offensively. Since the three were put together on BC's third line during the November 2nd game against Providence, Hardman has eight points. He's scored in five of the seven games in which he's played with Rasanen and Newhook, including three multi-point games.
Newhook, the center on Hardman's line, is also one of his closest friends. Most of BC's current freshmen played together on the U.S. National Team Development Program's U18 team. But Hardman and Newhook both spent last season in the BCHL, Hardman with West Kelowna and Newhook with Victoria, so they were familiar with each other before arriving in Chestnut Hill.
"I consider [Newhook] now one of my best friends here," Hardman said. "It's pretty cool getting to play against him last year and now being on the same team as him."
The two BCHL alums still support their respective teams and often have a friendly wager when the two face off. Victoria won the last matchup, so Newhook got to post a picture of Hardman on social media wearing Newhook's Victoria Grizzlies sweatshirt and holding a "Keep Calm and Grizz On" t-shirt.
Hardman was actually one of the latest commits in BC's much-talked-about recruiting class. Originally committed to Union College, Hardman decommitted in January. In the midst of his breakout season, Hardman had no shortage of offers from college hockey programs. He toured quite a few schools, including his grandfather's alma mater Boston University, but decided on BC later that month.
"I remember coming here for a visit and I just loved it right away," Hardman said. "Just the campus and the hockey facilities too were just unbelievable, second to none. It was really cool visiting other schools, but I think that I definitely made the right decision."