Chukarov Selected In NHL Draft By Buffalo Sabres

Ivan Chukarov was doing some grocery shopping last Saturday, June 27 when he received a surprising call from his advisor.

The 2013 Maine East alum and Des Plaines, IL, native spent the last two seasons playing hockey for the Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League.

Chukarov's advisor called to let him know he was drafte as the first pick of the seventh road (182nd overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League (NHL) Draft.

"I was like, no way," an ecstatic Chukarov said.  "I almost fell over when I heard I got drafted."

Chukarov called the experience surreal and though he knew there was a chance he could be taken, he was still surprised.

"Works can't even describe how I was feeling," Chukarov said.

It has been an exciting time for Chukarov who was a key contributor to the Wilderness winning the 2015 Robertson Cup Championship in May, the equivalent of the Stanley Cup for NAHL.

"I wouldn't want to end my last season with the Wilderness any other way," Chukarov said.  "It was amazing."

He played 55 regular season games with the Wilderness and ended the year with 12 goals and 31 assists for 43 points.

He also signed a letter of intent to play Division I hockey for University of Massachusetts-Amherst and will play with them the next two to four years before joining the Sabres.

"I plan on attending UMass and then whenever the Sabres feel I am ready, I will go where they think it is best for me to develop," Chukarov said.

Unlike the NBA or NFL, where once you are drafted you can't play in college anymore, you can be drafted by an NHL team and still attend college and be eligible to play.  The NHL team that selects the player then holds the rights to that player throughout their college career.

Chukarov is the 24th player from UMass to be drafted and the first from the school to be picked by the Sabres.  He will be a freshman at school this fall.

Getting drafted and still going to school is a great motivator to not get off track the next few years.

Chukarov said his phone was about to explod from all the calls from friends and family congratulating him over the weekend.  He hopes to make them proud as he tries to make his dream come true of playing in the NHL.

His favorite team growing up was the Detroit Red Wings, but that might have to change now that he is with Buffalo.

"I followed them a little bit growing up," Chukarov said of the Sabres.  "I know the Sabres are rebuilding right now, but we got a strong future and I hope to be a part of it in a few years."

Growing up in Des Plaines he played other sports, including soccer and volleyball, which he played at Gemini Jr. High School in Niles.

His hockey career started when he was just 4 years old with the Northern Express Hockey Club in Park Ridge.  He moved on to the Chicago Blues and Chicago Mission (AAA Hockey).

Now, the kid from Des Plaines who grew up watching the Red Wings with his dad might just be playing against them one day with Buffalo.

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