BUFFALO - The first thing you should know about Tyson Jost is that he's a character kid. He blew away teams at the draft combine with his interviews and it's not hard to predict him wearing the captain's 'C' in the NHL some day. The dynamic two-way center will go in the first round tonight but he'll be the first to tell you he didn't get there alone.
Jost was raised by his mother Laura in the suburbs of Edmonton. Laura works as a senior manager of sales for Bell Canada and also has a 16-year-old daughter, Kacey. Growing up in a household where sports were encouraged, Laura instilled the same values in her children. She coached Tyson in hockey when he was younger and has also coached Kacey in volleyball. Laura also got help from her parents, who would take Tyson to the rink when she was working.
"They were great babysitters," she said. "Sometimes I had to travel for work and they were always there."
It's a well-worn notion that it takes a village to raise a child, but with the Josts, they could count on Tyson's grandparents, as well as his aunt and others. But Laura did as much of the driving as she could, even if it meant late nights and early mornings.
"She gave up her time for us," Tyson said. "Getting me to practice at six a.m. then running my sister to dance class."
Now, pretty much every family makes sacrifices for their children, but as Tyson became more elite in hockey, tough decisions had to be made about his future. His cousin Brendan attended the Pursuit of Excellence school in Kelowna, B.C. and it seemed like a perfect place for him to develop. Tyson had a huge decision to make.
"It was hard," Tyson said. "I was 13 and I would have to leave home and my mom."
That's where Tyson's grandparents made a big gesture of their own. Laura's parents were already thinking of retirement plans and Laura's brother lived in Kelowna. So Tyson's grandparents moved out to Kelowna with him, so that he could play for the program. Often, grandparents are a soft touch, but that's not how the Josts roll. Laura considers herself "old school" as a parent and she got that from her upbringing. Her parents encouraged her in all pursuits, but hard work was expected and no meant no. Tyson found that out in Kelowna.
"My grandpa was tough on me," he said. "But it was a good tough. You have to work for everything; nothing is handed to you in life."
Tyson lit it up in Kelowna, putting up a stunning 56 goals and 109 points in just 33 games in his second year. He was well on his way to becoming a sought-after prospect, but those first few months after he left were difficult for Mom.
"Honestly, it was horrible," Laura said. "I coached Tyson, so when he left, my hockey world and my social circle kind of disappeared. Tyson made it easier - he promised he would call every day and he did - but I cried myself to sleep."
The upshot was that she had more time to spend with Kacey. And since Tyson has stayed on the West Coast, eventually hooking up with the Jr. A Penticton Vees of the BCHL, Laura has learned about the good in people.
"You learn who your true friends are," she said. "You learn who you can trust."
One family that fits that description is the Fabbros. Dante Fabbro is also a highly acclaimed prospect at this draft and the defenseman shared a billet house with Jost in Penticton. The Fabbros are from Vancouver, but have a cabin near Penticton, so Tyson and Dante would have family dinners there sometimes.
Like his role model, Jonathan Toews, Tyson is heading to the University of North Dakota next season. With Nick Schmaltz off to the Chicago Blackhawks, it's hard not to picture Jost at center with top Vancouver prospect Brock Boeser on his wing next year - though I'll leave that decision up to coach Brad Berry.
While the college degree is a nice incentive, Jost is driven by his dreams on the ice right now. He was a fireball in Penticton this season, racking up an outstanding 104 points in 48 games and then leading the world under-18s with 15 points in seven games for Canada.
"At the end of the day, I want to be in the NHL," he said. "And I want to win the Stanley Cup."
North Dakota has a great reputation for churning out NHLers, so the choice seems pretty sound. Now, after all those years of sacrifice, Tyson and all those who supported him will see him cross the stage and put on an NHL jersey for the first time.
"It's so special," Laura said. "I feel so blessed. Up until a couple nights ago, it seemed like a movie - but now we're in it."