After a successful second year, which included a CIS All-Star team selection, Gaels star defensemen Spencer Abraham received the call of a lifetime this summer.
On the other end of the phone was the NHL’s Florida Panthers, inviting Abraham to participate in their rookie tournament this year.
“It was probably one of the most rewarding phone calls that I have ever gotten,” Abraham said. “As a kid growing up in Southern Ontario, and playing hockey since I was 3 years old, you always dream of getting an opportunity to try out for a team in the NHL.”
This year’s tournament took place at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, FL and consisted of four teams: the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the Panthers. Each team invited a combination of their own prospects and some amateur players to showcase their skills.
Sharing the ice with some of the best young players in the world, Spencer learned a lot that he hopes to implement into his game, and extend to his team.
“The increase in the pace of play and skill level that a lot of those guys have was definitely good for my development,” Abraham said. “It was also good to see their day-to-day routine and how they take care of their bodies off the ice in terms of nutrition, fitness and recovery.”
Playing under head coach Brett Gibson his first two seasons as a Gael, Abraham credits much of his success to Gibson and believes that he is undoubtedly the best coach in the CIS.
“He is continuously trying to gain the best and most modern knowledge available to give us the best chance to succeed,” Abraham said.
“The passion and unselfishness he shows in his commitment to our team makes it easy for me to go out and lay it all on the line night in and night out.”
Abraham, like many young hopefuls has the ultimate goal of playing in the NHL. Unlike many others, he is now one step closer to making his dream into a reality.
Prior to Queen’s, Abraham played in the OHL with the Brampton Battalion and Erie Otters, alongside recent NHL stars Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. However, going undrafted by the NHL and now competing in the CIS, there are certain challenges that he has to face.
“I think you’re kind of an underdog in a sense,” he said. “You’re not going to get as much of an opportunity as the guys they’re invested in, or that are under contract, or that they drafted. The window is a lot smaller, so that’s the biggest challenge.”
Overcoming these challenges is no easy task. However, Coach Gibson sees an extremely motivated young man, with the work ethic and competitive drive to continually open doors for himself.
“Professionalism is the first word that comes to mind.” Coach Gibson said. “He comes into camp in great shape and he’s our hardest worker in practice. He takes school very seriously and has a plan for himself, both athletically and also academically.”
“That’s great credit to a kid who really knows what he wants in life.”
Even though he’s excelled in his first two seasons in the CIS — including winning CIS Rookie of the Year in 2014-15 season — Abraham refuses to settle. Throughout all the awards and accolades, he continues to work hard to help his team and to reach his ultimate goal.
“He could come in here and walk through the motions because he’s been an All-Star, he’s played Team CIS, he’s been to an NHL camp.” Gibson said. “But he doesn’t look at it that way. He looks at it in that he has to work even harder. Not too many guys can do that.”
Now going into his third year with the team, expectations are high for Abraham, both individually and for the team. He’ll be counted on to take another step forward for the Gaels, likely having to put his own NHL pursuit on the backburner, as he focuses on helping his team achieve their goal of winning a national championship and the Queen’s Cup. But for Spencer Abraham, the hard work never stops.
“I truly think the sky is the limit for Spencer because of how determined he is,” Gibson said. “He just works so hard and wants it so much.”
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