Ben Hanowski was sitting in a Montreal airport waiting to catch a flight to Minnesota when a reporter reached him on his cell phone Sunday afternoon.
"Where are you?" the reporter asked through the static in the connection.
"I'm in Montreal," Hanowski replied.
"What are you doing in Montreal? the reporter asked.
"I went up for the draft," the Little Falls Flyers hockey standout said.
It turned out to be a worthwhile trip for the St. Cloud State freshman-to-be. On Saturday he was the second pick in the third round (63rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Belle Centre in Montreal. The leading scorer in Minnesota State High School League history was drafted by the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Pittsburgh Penguins' third-round pick Ben Hanowski (left) of Little Falls and second-round pick Philip Samuelsson posed Saturday at the 2009 NHL hockey entry draft in Montreal. Associated Press
"A lot of hard work went into it," Hanowski said of his dream coming true. "It's nice to see some results.
"It's kind of a big accomplishment. It's pretty good for the whole community to have one of their own from their hometown, born and raised, get drafted. Hopefully, this will spark hockey, keep Little Falls hockey going."
Hanowski scored 196 goals and had 209 assists (405 total points) in four years with the Flyers.
Chuck Grillo, a scout for the Penguins and owner of Minnesota Hockey Camps in Nisswa, played a role in Hanowski's signing. He also said Hanowski scored five goals the night the Penguins' chief scout and another Pittsburgh scout watched him play.
"He's accomplished a lot of things as an athlete," Grillo said. "What's neat here is you have a young man who's reached the pinnacle in an elite league in a high school setting, and overnight he's on a world stage, linked with players from all over the world. Going from Little Falls in the state of Minnesota to all over the world, that's pretty big.
"(His records) are important, and they're indicative of his drive. By the same token those are the things that make you look at him as a player. You really draft the person. This kid is an extension of his upbringing, his grandparents and parents. There's quite a bloodline there.
"He's also an extension of his high school coach, Tony Couture. I think Tony's at a level above coach. He's a mentor. I think Ben's fortunate. These are the things, everything he's done to date, that are going to help him translate to something bigger and better."
Hanowski, who will attend a rookie camp in Pittsburgh July 20, said he knew the Penguins were interested in drafting him.
"I kind of had a good interview with them," he said. "I talked to them numerous times, but it's hard to tell. But I wasn't surprised they picked me."
Hanowski played on four of the Flyers' five state tournament teams since 2005. He led them to a 30-1-0 record last season and to third place in the Class 1A tournament, the highest finish in program history. He capped his phenomenal senior year by earning Associated Press Player of the Year honors.
He heads to SCSU this fall where he plans to work his tail off to earn playing time. Much of his summer will be spent at MHC.
"I think I will be in the lineup," Hanowski said, "but they're not going to hand you a top-line spot right way. You have to earn that as a freshman.
"We're going to have a great team. A lot of guys are back. They're only bringing in four new players so it will be tough to get on to the power play and the top two lines. It will take some work. I will be up at Grillo's camp. Hopefully that will get me over the top and help me contribute as much as I can in the fall.
"I (was at MHC) for the first week, I was there last Monday and Tuesday, headed to Montreal Wednesday, and I'll be there Monday."
At SCSU, Hanowski will join former Flyers teammate Jared Festler.
"I think we're going to play the same positions so I don't think we'll play together very much," he said. "I might move to wing this season because we have three pretty stud centers coming back so I don't know if I'm going to play center right away, but that's fine.
"Anything can happen. We could (play on the same line) eventually, but I don't think we will right away. It's not that big a deal."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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