WNY Hockey Prospects

10 Questions: Austin Osmanski

1. When did you start skating/playing hockey?

I started learning to skate at about 3 or 4 years of age at the Cheektowaga Rec with my Mom and Dad, and started playing house hockey at 5 years old.

2.  What got you started playing hockey?

My Dad and two uncles played hockey growing up, and my Grandpa coached so he made sure I at least gave it a try while I was young. It seems like a lot of kids try skating at least once in a city like Buffalo bu I just stuck with it because I wanted to play hockey like the rest of my family and I thought it was pretty cool to go watch my Uncle Eric’s games.

3. What organizations did you play with growing up before the Buffalo Regals / Jr Sabres program?

I started playing in the house program at Cheektowaga and then moved over to West Seneca’s travel team for my Mite Minor season after we moved there. After a few seasons, me and a few of my other teammates left for the Buffalo Regals. I ended up playing with the Regals from Squirt through the 15U season in the OMHA/SCTA before spending my last season in Buffalo with the Jr Sabres 16U and 18U teams.

4. What made you decide that playing with the Regals / Jr. Sabres was the best option for you?

Initially I went to the Regals for the Squirt Major year when there was still State Championship Tournaments at that age level, and all of my best buddies went there – we were having a lot of fun playing together. The AAA Regals program is one of the best in WNY, especially the teams facing great competition in the OMHA/SCTA. When the Harbor Center opened and the Jr Sabres organization was created, I decided to play there for the competition and exposure in the Tier 1 Elite League, the amazing facilities and the training opportunities.

5. Following your 2013-2014 season with the Regals U15 team that played in the SCTAMM, you were invited to play with the TPH Thunder for the OHL Cup. Was this the first time you realized OHL scouts were watching you play or did you know you were being scouted before the OHL CUP?

Well, there are team scouts at every OMHA/SCTA game, but I didn’t really think about them being there to watch me at all. I just tried to work hard and hopefully leave a positive impression on them. As that season started to come to an end, I could feel my game improving at a good pace and my coaches would sometimes mention teams asking about me, and how I was starting to create an opportunity for myself heading into the draft. The OHL Cup was a good experience, and I received great feedback about my play, so it did start to sink in that there was good potential for me in the OHL draft.

6. The summer after the 2013-2014 season you were drafted in the 6th Round, #105 overall, by the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL Priority Selection. Did you know Mississauga had interest in you before the draft? Did you have an idea that you would most likely be selected?

After the OHL Cup, I attended the OHL Combine and started working with an advisor, and they really helped to prepare me for everything that happens leading up to the draft and gauge all of the teams’ interest in me. I spoke with a lot of the organizations in the weeks leading up to the draft – pretty basic stuff to gauge interest and get to know each other a little bit. It’s hard to tell exactly how interested teams are and which one might actually pick you. But yes, I was expecting to be drafted, but not entirely sure what round or team. In the end, I was really happy to get that call from the Steelheads on draft day.

7. The summer after the 2013-2014 season you were drafted in the 21st Round, #329 overall, by the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL Entry Draft. Players of your caliber that are drafted as high as you were in the OHL Draft are typically selected in the later rounds of the USHL Draft in case they decide to go the USHL / NCAA Hockey route. Were you considering college hockey at this point or were you already pretty sure you were going the OHL route?

It was great to also be drafted in the USHL and have that path available to me too. A lot of time was spent thinking about options and next steps, but my gut feeling was always to go play in the OHL. The decision is different for everyone, but I think it’s the best place to play junior hockey – the competition is incredible, and it’s amazing to be able to play with/against the NHL’s future stars day in and day out.

8. Almost immediately after the 2014-2015 season you signed with Mississauga for the 2015-2016 season. What made you choose the OHL as the best option to continue your career?

When it came down to it and I weighed all of the pros and cons – I loved the city, the staff, the atmosphere, and the potential opportunity in Mississauga. It was really important to me to be happy wherever I ended up and to make sure I’d have the chance to be in the lineup and to be playing. Wherever my career takes me, being able to say I played in a league of the caliber of the OHL, is something I can say I’m very proud of. There is still a lot of work ahead of me though to reach my next goal.

9. Did you talk to any other OHL players from Buffalo before making your decision?

I have two close friends who currently play in the league and started before me – Frank Hora and Stephen Dhillon. Both of them had nothing but great things to say about their experience and it made me want to be where they were even more so.

Frank also started his rookie season as a 17 year old defenseman and he’s someone who I really look to for advice. So far Frank has helped me get through the adjustment period as fast as possible since he’s been there, done that, and now has made a name for himself in the league. Stephen is my age and I played with him growing up for several years and would talk to him every day last year. He would tell me how much he loved it there, being around that type of talent every single day and having top level coaching to help you succeed.

It meant a lot to have those opinions from guys as talented as Frank and Stephen, who had already gone through the decision process and gained experience in the league.

10. NHL Central Scouting has you on their radar as a player to watch for the 2016 NHL Draft. What do you think is the most important thing you can do this season in Mississauga to give you the best chance to be drafted in 2016?

I try not to worry about lists, scouts in the stands, or any of the other talk about the draft this year. It’s obviously cool to see your name on a list like that, but I like to take a step back and say – “What’s next?” and “What do I need to do to get me from here to there?” I set some goals for myself, and will stay motivated and focused on working hard and improving every day. I would love to have my name called this summer in my hometown (it seems unreal to think about that potentially happening), but if it does, there’s still a ton of work to be done to make sure your game reaches the level necessary to ultimately play in the NHL.

For now, I’m really focused on helping the Steelheads be successful and put wins on the board each night. It’s still early in the season, but if I consistently do my job, I think it will all fall into place and draft day in Buffalo will take care of itself…I can’t wait.

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