St. John’s star drafted by San Jose Sharks
Danvers native off to Harvard
It was one of the biggest moments in his young life, and Colin Blackwell wasn’t wearing pants.
When Blackwell — a Globe boys’ hockey Athlete of the Year — learned he’d been drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the seventh round of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft last Saturday, he had just hopped out of the shower.
“I was just getting out of the shower, and my girlfriend was watching on NHL.com,’’ Blackwell said. “I heard her scream and went running out and she told me. It was pretty funny.’’
It was supposed to be a big night for Blackwell and his girlfriend, Devon Wright. For Wright’s birthday, Blackwell had bought tickets for the couple to see Taylor Swift at Gillette Stadium.
It ended up being a celebration for Blackwell’s budding hockey career.
“We thought maybe somebody would take him in the later rounds, but he said he didn’t want to sit in front of a computer or TV all day,’’ said Jim Blackwell, Colin’s dad. “We were at a friend’s house watching the thing go down. We saw his name go up on the board, and we jumped in the car. . . .
“We saw him, congratulated him, and hugged him and everything, and then boom, he was off to a concert.’’
Blackwell was widely thought of as the top high school hockey player in the state this year, netting 33 goals with 33 assists in the regular season. In the Super 8 tournament, the senior’s game jumped yet another notch, as he tallied 11 points while leading St. John’s Prep all the way to the tournament finals — the Eagles’ first finals appearance in program history.
“That Blackwell kid, I don’t know how you contain him,’’ Weymouth coach Matt Cataldo said after losing to Prep in the Super 8 semis. “Put him in a cage? He’s just so fast and talented.’’
“I actually met with San Jose locally just a week before the draft,’’ Blackwell said. “They just said they’d seen me play here and there since seeing me at the National Development camp last year. Said they saw me in the state championship game. It was just a sit-down thing to get to know me and understand my character and personality, what I’m about.
“I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I’m obviously honored. It’s a dream come true.’’
It’s a big step in the right direction if Blackwell — a 2011 Harvard commitment — is going to earn a shot at the professional level.
It also puts Blackwell in good company when he arrives in Cambridge in the fall. The Danvers native was one of four Harvard recruits selected by an NHL team last weekend, joining goaltender Stephen Michalek and skaters Petr Placek and Max Everson.
“A lot of people say Harvard is in a rebuilding phase,’’ Blackwell said.
“Five of the nine incoming freshmen have now been drafted into the NHL. To go in with that crop of talent, to hear those names, I’m very excited about it.’’
Blackwell has already been in contact with the Sharks’ director of scouting, Tim Burke, and he plans to talk to Burke more as the summer goes on. San Jose will hold a prospect camp from July 10 to 15, which Blackwell plans to attend.
The selection doesn’t change his plans to head to Harvard, though.
Since his senior lacrosse season finished up earlier this month — St. John’s returned to the Division 1 Eastern Massachusetts final for the second straight year — he’s only recently begun the Harvard off-season training regimen.
Aside from working hockey camps with the Select Skills program in Newburyport and Lawrence, Blackwell hasn’t skated since the state title game in March.
The Sharks’ drafting of Blackwell speaks volumes about the state of the St. John’s Prep hockey program, too.
In the 1980s, the Eagles had eight players selected in the NHL Entry Draft, starting with 18-year NHL veteran Bobby Carpenter in 1981 and ending with Jeff Blaeser and Jeffery Kampersal in 1988.
No player had been drafted directly out of St. John’s since, a reflection both of the changing prep hockey landscape and of the path the Eagles’ program has taken since the end of the ’80s.
“I definitely think I took the nontraditional route,’’ Blackwell said. “I didn’t have to leave for a prep school or for juniors. I was in good company with the St. John’s Prep hockey team and organization over the last three or four years. It’s really turning into a hockey school.
“It definitely means a lot to hear your name and to wear that uniform that says St. John’s Prep on it. It’s been the best four years of my life so far, and this is awesome for them, the coaching staff, for everything they’ve done for me. It’s been awesome.’’