Six players from Newfoundland and Labrador were chosen during the Saturday, June 1 draft of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Alex Drover was one of them, selected 10th overall by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, making him the highest Atlantic Canadian forward drafted.
“It’s a dream come true. To be able to be drafted by the Screaming Eagles – it’s an honour. They’re a great organization and I’m just so happy and I’m so fortunate to be drafted by them,” said Drover via phone interview.
It’s not hard to understand why the Screaming Eagles scouts zeroed in on him. Ranked 20th overall by QMJHL Central Scouting going into the draft, the 5 ft. 9-inch 165 lbs. forward was just coming off a strong season with the Halifax McDonalds.
Counting tournament play, Alex scored 51 goals and assisted on 55 to finish with a 106-point season. During 36 regular season games he averaged 1.58 points per game, scoring 27 goals and 30 assists.
Alex sums up his success more succinctly.
“I am a goal scorer and a high IQ hockey player who gives it all every shift,” he said.
That work ethic, commitment and sheer love of the sport was evident at quite an early age says his father, Rick Drover.
When he took 18-month-old Alex to a medical appointment and asked how soon he could skate, the doctor pointed out that he was already running around the office and probably good to go. Since Alex was far too young yet for organized hockey, Rick took him to family morning skates and while other children would cling to their parents, Alex sought to do it on his own from the start.
“He pulled away from me. He didn’t want me holding him, and he just started walking on them right away,” Rick recalled. “And it was no time when he was actually skating. So that was the beginning.”
After that it was hockey all the time. When the Drover family bought a large screen television, Rick remembers how four-year-old Alex put a 15-inch slit through the new screen with a mini-stick after getting a bit too excited while watching a tournament.
“At the age of four all he wanted for Christmas was only hockey gear,” Alex’s father said. “I would try to convince him to have dinkies and trucks and whatever else most kids want, but he wouldn’t have anything else. He wanted sticks, pucks, you name it.”
Born in Port aux Basques in 2002, Alex’s career actually started on the ice at the Bruce II Sports Centre and on the pond behind the Drover home. An active, energetic child, his love for hockey provided an outlet.
“For me and his Mom, we found it hard to keep up with him, so what we would do is we would bring him to the Bruce II as much as we possibly could, before he was actually old enough to play organized hockey, to beat him out so that we could get some rest,” recalls his father. “He never did want to play with anything else besides a hockey stick and it’s pretty much still the same to this day.”
Indeed, over a decade later it seems Alex still has plenty of energy to burn.
“I’m an outdoors type of kid. I love going out and doing other sports,” says Alex. “I’ll get a bunch of boys together and we’ll play some beach volleyball. We’ll go fishing or golfing or just any other sport. I’m a sporty type of kid and I love to be doing active things.”
The family still has fond memories of their time spent living in Port aux Basques. Hockey and work commitments have not allowed them to visit Newfoundland friends and family as much as they’d like, a situation they’re hoping to remedy sooner rather than later.
“I enjoyed every moment thoroughly. I very much enjoyed the people there. We were always welcome. And it was just a wonderful experience for a family and a great place to raise kids, no doubt about it,” maintains Rick.
Alex played for the Port aux Basques Blaze until his parents’ careers with the Canadian Coast Guard meant a move to Torbay in 2011. Alex remembers his first coaches fondly, particularly Joe Lane who always had a ready, friendly smile. Years later he says he’s still incredibly grateful for their support and guidance.
In 2014 the family relocated to Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia where they still reside, but Alex chose to travel a bit further afield to pursue his hockey dreams.
Playing in a private tournament got Alex noticed by Hillside School in Massachusetts, and that in turn got him noticed by the Boston Junior Bruins. Despite their name, the Junior Bruins are not associated with the NHL Boston Bruins, but the organization is impressive in its own right.
Rick clarified via email, “They are, however, considered the most coveted full season 16 and Under team in Massachusetts. Being selected to play for that team as an under-aged 14-year-old was quite an honour. Only a handful of 14-year-olds played in the Tier 1, United States Premiere Hockey League (USPHL) which consisted of the top players from a large portion of the United States.”
Alex has nothing but great things to say about his time playing at Hillside and with the Junior Bruins.
“It was great competition, and when I went to Boston it really prepared me for this year, like being able to play underage midget with guys way older than you,” Alex said. “You know, it really toughened you up and got you used to that speed, so when I came home everything was a bit easier for me since I was already adjusted and adapted to that level of hockey. So it definitely helped me a lot.”
In order to play in Massachusetts Alex had to live on campus, but he proved mature enough to handle it says his father.
“Being away from home, being away from us, for him it was like a challenge, an adventure, he absolutely loved it,” said Rick. “From our perspective as parents, it was harder on us than it was on him. I put a lot of miles on our car. To go back and forth to Boston – it’s about an 11-hour drive and so we would try to make the trek every three weeks or so to go down and see him play.”
Now that he’s been drafted by the Screaming Eagles, the commute should prove a little easier on his parents and his sister, Danielle. For the first time Alex will be billeting, and he’s already focused on making the roster.
“I’ll be going down for training camp sometime late August, so when that starts up I’m going to be working super hard this summer to be able to crack the roster, so I have to be at the top of my game when that time comes.”
Staying at the top of his game and embracing each challenge to get to the next level seems to be Alex’s default status.
“Hockey is my passion. It’s everything I love doing. It’s my number one priority. A lot of people, they see 5 a.m. practices (as), ‘Oh I gotta get up and go to practice’. I see it as, ‘It’s another chance to get better and have a step on other players’. And not just that. I love doing it. I love going out on the ice. You know hockey is meant to be a fun sport and I enjoy every moment of it,” he said.
A Pittsburgh Penguin fan first and foremost – the Boston Bruins are his second favourite team –Alex dreams of eventually playing in the NHL.
“That’s been the dream of mine ever since I’ve been three years old. You know, watching the NHL on TV growing up, and you know, it’s always been the goal,” he said. “It’s the number one. It’s the ultimate truth for a hockey player.”
For now, he is focused on his future in Cape Breton.
“I know two guys on the roster and they’ve welcomed me very well. I’ve had a lot of guys I haven’t met yet messaged me through twitter or found my contact and you know just sent me a welcome to the Screaming Eagles,” says Alex, who is already acquainted with a couple of players on the roster and has heard from others besides. “All those guys that welcomed me - it was very well appreciated.”
Rick has no doubt his son will do his very best, as he always does.
“He’s a hardworking kid and I’m sure he’ll give the Screaming Eagles everything he’s got.”