As the fourth round of Saturday’s National Hockey League draft ended and the fifth round was about to begin, Nick Porco said he started to get restless and pace the floor of his family’s Sault Ste. Marie home.
“I had to stop watching it on TV,” Porco relayed. “I was getting a little nervous thinking about whether I would get drafted or not.”
But the anxiety was soon to end for Porco, who has spent the past two seasons as a winger with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.
With the 142nd pick of the 2019 NHL draft, the Dallas Stars used their fifth-round selection to take the 6-foot, 175-pound Porco. Because of previous trades, Dallas had only four picks in the seven-round NHL draft but used one to make Porco the only forward to be selected by the Stars.
So, perhaps it can be stated that the Stars aligned well for Porco, who was the only Sault Ste. Marie product to be selected from the 217 players from all over the world who earned the distinction of being picked at the 2019 NHL draft.
Once the draft ended, the Porco home on Sunnyside Beach Rd. in the Sault turned into an outdoor celebration and the even-keeled youngster mingled with family members and friends.
As we strolled the grounds of his family’s waterfront property, Porco was at ease as he talked of heading out to Dallas for a week-long orientation camp and what it meant to become an NHL draft pick.
“I just wanted to get drafted,” he relayed. “It didn’t matter what round. My goal is to play in the NHL some day and this is a step towards that.”
Even though the family-and-friends get together was about him, Porco instead preferred to talk about others as the reality of being drafted by an NHL team sunk in.
He spoke fondly of Beau Moyer, his former coach of two years with bantam and midget teams with the Vaughan Kings of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. Porco also talked of a renewed kinship with his former Vaughan teammate, hulking defenseman Thomas Harley, who Dallas took with its first-round pick of this year’s NHL draft.
There was also a nice mention of Porco’s first OHL coach, Troy Smith. Smith coached Porco during his rookie season in Saginaw only to be abruptly fired 22 games into the 2018-2019 campaign by Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill.
And besides his mom (Jennifer) and dad (Frank) and younger sister (Kaileigh), also among the throng of well-wishers at the post-draft get together was his paternal grandfather — and namesake — Nick Porco. The elder Mr. Porco is fiercely proud and supportive of his grandson and watched happily as young Nick was the subject of numerous handshakes and hugs.
At any rate, Porco, who has a 2001 birth date, still has at least two full seasons of OHL eligibility to develop as Dallas monitors his progress. And Joe McDonnell, who is the director of amateur scouting for the Stars, offered some good words about Porco.
“He has great raw skill,” McDonnell began. “He has very good speed, is a very good skater and has good puck skill. As a fifth-rounder, he may surprise some people in the end.”
Porco is coming off a 2018-2019 campaign in which he scored 20 goals, 16 assists, 36 points in 67 regular season games before adding 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points through three rounds and 15 playoff outings for Saginaw.
Blessed with blazing separation speed and having what is called a “high hockey IQ”, Porco totaled the 23 goals that he did in spite of a number of obstacles which included being shifted to right wing despite being a left-hand shot and playing on Saginaw’s third and fourth lines, often with mediocre line-mates who were unable to keep up with his speed.
Thus, there is a prevailing thought that Porco was not properly utilized by Spirit coach Chris Lazary, who replaced the aforementioned Troy Smith behind the Saginaw bench 22 games into the 2018-2019 season.
Speed and skill aside, Porco carries a character reputation of being an “A+ kid.” Friendly, albeit quiet and unassuming, Porco is not in the least bit full of himself and is known as a unselfish player and a good teammate.
And now he is a Star, at least by the NHL draft standards in Dallas.