Born and raised in Langley, Dennis Cholowski realized a childhood dream Friday in Buffalo, NY.
The 18-year-old Chilliwack Chiefs defenceman – who played with the Langley Minor Hockey Association up to the bantam AAA level – was one of three B.C. Hockey League skaters snapped up in the first round of the 2016 National Hockey League Draft.
The smooth skating, offensively gifted blueliner was taken 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings.
Cholowski joins Penticton Vees centre Tyson Jost (10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche) and Vees defenceman Dante Fabbro (17th overall to Nashville) as BCHL’ers chosen in the opening round of the draft.
“So honoured to be selected by @DetroitRedWings,” Cholowski tweeted out Friday. “Very proud moment for me and my family.”
On Saturday, Cholowski shared with the Langley Advance that being drafted by the Red Wings is a “tremendous honour.”
“Detroit is one of the best organizations in the league, and have produced some of the greatest player of all time,” Cholowski said. “Also the fact that they are an Original Six team is extremely cool.”
In his final year with the Chiefs, Cholowski put together a brilliant draft year.
The 6’1” 176-pound Cholowski was named as a BCHL second team all-star while leading all Chiefs rearguards in scoring with 40 points (12g-28a).
His point totals were fifth among all BCHL defencemen.
As well, Cholowski led all BCHL blueliners in post-season scoring with 15 points (4g-11a) in 20 games.
Cholowski finished his career with the Chiefs with 67 points (16g-51a) and 20 penalty minutes in 106 games over the past three seasons, adding 22 points (4g-18a) in 32 career BCHL playoff games.
Cholowski also won a gold medal for Canada this season at the World Junior A Challenge, picking up two assists in four games.
Chiefs head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic joined Cholowski and his family in Buffalo to experience the moment with his young protégé.
“You’re really excited for the player,” Tatarnic said. “It’s his dream to get drafted and to see that happen, you’re happy for that kid. He just achieved a childhood dream so it was exciting to see.”
Tatarnic described Cholowski as a “very intelligent hockey player who understands the game well.”
“He has that drive in him to get better every day,” Tatarnic said. “He stayed after practices to work on things. He’s a pretty committed kid, a pretty easy kid to coach.”
Cholowski opens a new chapter in his hockey career next season when he begins NCAA Div. 1 play with Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University Huskies.
When it comes to an NHL time line, Tatarnic couldn’t forecast when Cholowski will play in ‘The Show.’ What he does know is, Cholowski was chosen by a solid franchise that has a long history of being patient with its prospects.
“I don’t know when he’s gong to play but he’s going to play [in the NHL],” Tatarnic predicted. “I believe that he has the skating, the tools, and the hockey IQ to get that done. He just needs to get some size and strength on him and that should happen in college. Time will tell but Detroit is a patient group that understands the process.”
Cholowski knows what he needs to work on to make it to the NHL.
“As for improvement, just getting into the weight room and getting bigger and stronger will help with college hockey and the NHL, where the players are much bigger and more physical,” he said.
Oil’s well for Benson
The captain of the Langley-based Vancouver Giants also realized his dream of being drafted into the NHL.
Giants captain Tyler Benson was snapped up in the second round, 32nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers.
Benson is the 26th player in Giants franchise history to be drafted into the NHL.
“We are excited to see Tyler reach one of his goals,” Giants general manager Glen Hanlon said. “It will be fun for our fans to watch him continue to develop into a top player.”
Benson tallied nine goals and 19 assists during an injury plagued 2015/16 season that saw him suit up in only 30 games for the G-Men.
The 18-year-old won a gold medal with Team Canada at last year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup as well as a bronze medal at the 2015 Under-18 world championships.
Benson was taken first overall by Vancouver in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.