Zach Senyshyn was simply honored to be considered in the 2015 NHL Draft. He said as much on June 6 at the Combine that took place in Buffalo, New York. Three months later, Senyshyn was back in Buffalo, still amazed at the turns his hockey career had taken during those three months.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Senyshyn said. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a lot of stress and pressure, but it’s been a really exciting experience and the kind of stress and pressure that you want in your life, so it’s been a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to more in the future.”
The moment that started it all came during the first night of the NHL Draft on June 26. Although Senyshyn was projected to go somewhere around 40th overall and said at the Combine that he’d be happy to be drafted at all, the Boston Bruins blew away his — and others’ — expectations by drafting Senyshyn 15th overall with one of their three first-round picks.
“It was great, pretty exciting,” Senyshyn said. “Definitely the most exciting experience of my life and kind of something I’ve always looked to growing up and the best day of my life, so it was a pretty nice surprise, and a team like Boston — can’t ask for any better situation.”
The highlight of those three months was a simple one.
“I’d have to say putting on the Bruins sweater,” Senyshyn said. “That was a pretty special experience and one that I’ve always dreamed of growing up. Being able to play tonight even is a really exciting experience for me, and I’m really excited about it.”
“Tonight” referred to Sunday night (September 13), Senyshyn’s first game as a member of the Bruins. He was back in Buffalo along with a host of other Bruins prospects for the Prospect Challenge hosted by the Sabres and featuring the Bruins along with the New Jersey Devils. Sunday night, Senyshyn’s Bruins faced off against the Devils and won 4-3 in overtime.
Senyshyn’s goal as he looked to the first game of the tournament was to impress.
“I just want to show them my compete and show them my skills as a player and what I have to bring — show them my compete and my team play as well,” Senyshyn said. “Another big thing that I like to bring is being able to work with my teammates and make them better and them making me better as well. I think we’ve got a lot of great players in here, and I’m really excited to work with them.”
Senyshyn was also excited to be able to play with his fellow first rounders, Jake DeBrusk and Jakub Zboril, whom he’d grown extremely close to since the draft. Sharing the experience made it easier on all three players.
“We’ve kind of been attached by the hip, it seems, at all these camps and stuff,” Senyshyn said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s really nice going through it with them and talking to them a little bit about the pressures and everything that we have to go through, too. It’s been a nice release for me, and we’re really good friends now, and it was a really cool experience to go through that with them.”
Senyshyn was excited to have someone to not only share the frustrations with, but also the high moments.
“It’s not all bad and pressures and stuff,” he said with a grin. “It was a really cool experience to be able to go through with them on draft day, even, talking with them about this amazing experience and being able to share it with them was really special.”
And the three prospects created another moment to share on Sunday night as they combined forces to score the game-tying goal late in the third period. Zboril scored the goal on a pass from DeBrusk that deflected off Senyshyn’s stick. Senyshyn wouldn’t take credit.
“It was a pretty cool experience, and a little bit of a freak accident, I guess,” he said with a laugh after Sunday’s win. “But Zboril made a really nice play to get it on net there, and Jake made a really great pass, and it was pretty cool that we all got to kinda start [our careers] together and get that goal together as well.”
The speed and skill of the players around and opposing him on the ice was a bit of a surprise for Senyshyn.
“It was really exciting and a little bit of an eye opening experience,” Senyshyn said. “It was pretty fast out there and a lot of great players, but it was a lot of fun and a pretty special experience.”
But Senyshyn just turned 18 in March, and he knows he’s young and able to learn.
“Just learning from these older guys,” he said. “We got a lot of veterans on this team and guys that have gone through this process before. Listening to them and watching as they do and hoping to use my skills to make an impact out there for my team.”
His confidence was there in Sunday’s game, but so was his willingness to learn from those around him.
“I felt pretty confident,” Senyshyn said. “I’m pretty confident in my abilities, but there’s a lot to learn still, and I’m still a young player and still trying to learn a lot from these older guys.”
Monday’s game against Buffalo couldn’t have ended more differently; it was quite nearly the opposite from Sunday’s game for both the Bruins and Senyshyn himself. Instead of the Bruins coming back from a 2-0 deficit, they started with a 2-0 lead and lost it with 5:45 remaining in the third.
And it was a power play goal after Senyshyn was called for holding against the Sabres’ Jack Eichel.
“Just kind of fumbled the puck, and the puck went the other way,” Senyshyn explained. “I just kinda dived to knock the puck away from the opposing player and seemed to have may or may not got a piece of him. Wasn’t my intent, but that’s the way the game goes sometimes. Sometimes it’s not always what you mean to do, but definitely disappointing. Kind of a disappointing play for sure, especially them capitalizing on it.”
The Bruins ended up losing in overtime to a Jack Eichel goal. Senyshyn had three shots on goal in Monday’s game, including one in overtime, but nothing to show for them.
“It was a really great experience for us but a little bit disappointing the way it ended,” Senyshyn said of the Prospects Challenge. “Obviously a learning experience, taking a few things away from this past game. Definitely gonna attack it next time a little differently, and take some things from these older guys and apply it to my game for the future.”
Senyshyn is not a physical player, but he’s fast. He works hard when he’s on the ice and never gives up on the puck. He’s always working toward the success of the team, even if it means passing the puck or setting up a teammate instead of taking a shot himself. Last year in the OHL with the Soo Greyhounds, Senyshin had 26 goals and 19 assists in 66 games. He had just 17 penalty minutes.
“I bring a lot of speed and a lot of pace,” Senyshyn said. “I think I play with a lot of energy, and I like to try to make my linemates better and be able to open up some space for them to move. I consider myself a goal scorer, and it was kind of frustrating not being able to pop that one in at the end there.”
Senyshyn now turns his attention back to the OHL and is looking forward to bringing what he learned with the Bruins back to the Greyhounds and doing what he can there.
“Still just growing,” Senyshyn said. “I’m still just trying to scratch the surface to the rest of my potential, and I really want to build and become a real dominant force back in the OHL with the Soo Greyhounds. Definitely learning from these guys and their work ethic and the way they attack the game, and bring that back to the OHL.”
Senyshyn has a nickname. It’s Sunshine. It started just with the look of his name, but his friendly and easygoing personality goes right along with it. It started at the Combine, and I made sure to bring it up again at the Prospects Challenge and ask if any teammates have picked up on it.
“A couple guys have actually picked it up over the last couple days actually,” he said.