It was less than two weeks ago when Rimouski Oceanic coach Serge Beausoleil called Brandon Casey into his office.
It wasn’t Casey’s first time in the coach’s office at this point in training camp. He was familiar with a sense of nervousness swelling in his chest and a worried feeling creeping into his psyche.
These calls to the office can go either way. The player is either told he made the team or is getting cut.
It was a year earlier when the Grand Falls-Windsor native got snipped from the Oceanic after a strong camp.
On this day in late August, Casey’s mind crept ahead. If Beausoleil was going to tell him to come back next year, he figured he’d head to the Maritime Hockey League and Junior A. Casey knew he had a camp this time around and he was close to making the final roster last season.
But Casey had no reason to be nervous. The meeting in the coach’s office was a joyous one as he was told he had made the Oceanic and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“It was the best moment I’ve ever had,” said the 17-year-old defenceman. “It was unreal.”
To get to this point, Casey made sure he put in the work necessary for him to make the club in 2019.
He spent last season at Newbridge Academy in Nova Scotia and the summer months in his province getting stronger and faster on his skates. There were conditioning trips to St. John’s and plenty of time spent on the ice. It meant sacrifices, but it was worth it.
“I wanted to be in the best shape possible for camp this year,” he said.
Casey joins the Oceanic as the latest athlete from this province to suit up for the club in its history. Preceding him in Rimouski were Mark Tobin (St. John’s), Tyler Boland (St. John’s), Ryan Clowe (Fermeuse), Andrew Picco (Marystown), Jon Pardy (Clarenville), Eric Drouin (Labrador City) and Nick Gosse (Paradise).
As a team member, he gets the daily chance to see projected first overall NHL draft pick Alexis Lafreniere.
“It's pretty incredible watching him work every day,” said Casey. “He controls the game. He’s so smooth out there.”
Billed as a smooth skating two-way defenceman who can jump into the play when needed, making the team was just the beginning for Casey.
Not only will he be fighting to keep himself in the lineup every night, but it is his first professional draft year.
“I need to keep pushing myself to get better,” he said. “I have to show the coaches that I want to stay in the lineup.”