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Capitals pick winger Terik Parascak 17th in NHL Draft

LAS VEGAS – Terik Parascak earned an outstanding nickname in his first season with the Prince George Cougars.

The 18-year-old winger, selected by the Washington Capitals with the No. 17 overall pick in the NHL Draft on Friday, has impressed, scoring eight goals in his first four games for the Cougars – including two in his first game and four in his third. His strong start prompted Prince George’s live commentator Cole Waldie to call him a “super rookie,” and Parascak agreed with Waldie.

With 43 goals and 62 assists in 68 games, Parascak was the Western Hockey League’s top rookie and the second-leading scorer behind Prince George. Zac Funk, whom Washington signed as an undrafted free agent in April, was the team’s top player with 67 goals.

“I was a little bit on the up and up in the beginning and I think after that show they started calling me that,” Parascak said. “It just caught on. Now everyone calls me that. … After a while it definitely got a little boring. I don’t like that attention so much, but of course it’s super cool to have a nickname like that.”

Macklin Celebrini was the first to go to the San Jose Sharks. Celebrini, who turned 18 just two weeks before the draft, won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey – and the youngest – with a season of 64 points in 38 games at Boston University.

About 90 minutes later, Parascak heard his name called. His 105-point season was something of a revelation. As a 16-year-old, he was sent back to the Edge School for another year of prep hockey, rather than entering the WHL full-time like most promising prospects do at 16. Parascak got a taste of the WHL that season, playing five games spread throughout the season, but did not score a single point in those four games. At Edge, he averaged more than a goal per game, with 32 goals and 34 assists in just 30 games.

“Really smart player. Really, really smart player,” said Ross Mahoney, Washington’s assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting. “Sees the ice really well. Has a really good hand at the net. … Hardworking kid. Really likes the hands and the hockey feel.”

When Parascak looks back now and is still processing everything that has happened in the past twelve months, he believes that without that extra year of hockey preparation, he would not have been selected in the first round.

“Understanding what it takes to get to that junior level,” Parascak said of his jump this season. “I got a little taste of it the year before and just took that information into senior year. … I wasn’t able to get enough ice time to really develop my skills and didn’t want to ruin my development that way. I got them to send me back and build a ton of confidence so I could go into this season and do what I did.”

Most mock drafts had Parascak selected later in the first round or even early in the second, making his selection at No. 17 a bit of a stretch. However, the lack of consensus in this draft class opened up the possibility of teams selecting players they had a particular affinity for.

When General Manager Brian MacLellan called his name, the surprised look on Parascak’s face could be seen on the giant screen at the Sphere.

“I just didn’t know what to expect, this whole experience,” Parascak said, noting that he had several meetings with the Capitals before the draft. “It was all kind of, all playing by feel. This was my whole year, just going with the flow. I was definitely surprised, but I couldn’t be more excited.”

Parascak’s game awareness is perhaps his greatest strength, according to scouting reports, which highlight his positioning away from the puck and his understanding of how to get himself – or his teammates – into scoring positions. Whether he’s shooting the puck himself or setting up a teammate, Parascak seems to have a good sense of where the scoring opportunities are and how to get there.

“Parascak’s timing and spatial awareness away from the puck have shaped his game, as he regularly gets to the right spots at the right time to grab rebounds, make backdoor passes or get out in transition to give his defense a stretch option for takers (without actually cheating),” wrote Scott Wheeler of The Athletic, who ranked Parascak as the 20th overall draft prospect. “He anticipates the play at a very high level offensively and defensively, knows how to get free and play to his teammates’ strengths, has a great wrist shot and one-touch shot from mid-range, always goes to the net when the play goes there instead of staying wide out, and is adept around the net and close to the body when being attacked by defenders.”

The next step in Parascak’s development will be to add muscle to his 6’1″, 195lb frame. He believes this will help him in figure skating and allow him to go further.

And after taking a somewhat unconventional path to a first-round pick, Parascak sees that path as additional motivation to get to the NHL.

“Everything I’ve been through so far has been a learning experience,” Parascak said. “I definitely got kicked off some teams growing up and I’ve looked at it all as a learning experience. It’s made me the person and the player I am. Nothing is ever given to you. You have to earn everything. Everything happens for a reason. I just take all of those things and be able to face adversity like that and hopefully one day get to where I want to be.”

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