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Draft Day Memories: Jacob Bernard-Docker and Dillon Heatherington

June 23, 2023

With the 2023 National Hockey League Entry Draft a week away, the Ottawa Senators are scheduled to make five selections in Nashville, Tennessee. The organization currently holds one selection in both rounds four and five and three in round seven. Soon, five more prospects will join the franchise which already boasts an exceptional group of young talent.

Now is a perfect time to hear from players who have already been through the process. Recently, skilled defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker and team captain Dillon Heatherington, also a rearguard, both mainstays of the Belleville Senators, took some time to share some reflections on their experiences at the prestigious event.

Jacob Bernard-Docker

While working his way to the National Hockey League, Jacob Bernard-Docker has always prioritized his academic development as well, which is one of the reasons why he elected to play NCAA hockey at the University of North Dakota. Even on his draft day, he recalled that school loomed large. He needed to write a test just ahead of the entry selection.

“I remember that morning. I had to take a diploma, which is a provincial exam in Alberta. I had to drive out and do that, and all I could think about the whole time was the draft that was happening that night. My family and I were all there, and I did not expect much. I was just there for the experience, most of all, and was really hoping to get picked at some point. When Ottawa took me, it was a surreal moment. My sister actually went to get a pretzel from the concession at pick 24 and made it back at 25, and I ended up going 26. She almost missed it. So, you know, that is how much we thought I was going that high. Obviously, it was a life-changing experience and something I was grateful for.”

Since being selected 26th overall in the 2018 Entry Draft, Bernard-Docker has excelled with the franchise, having already skated in 32 contests with Ottawa. The native of Canmore, Alberta, has also seen significant time in the American Hockey League registering 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) with a plus-15 rating in 99 appearances with Belleville.

“After it happens, you obviously try to enjoy it. You know, there are a lot of people that have helped me to that point in my life. I think once you get over that initial joy, it is right back to work. At the end of the day, it really does not mean anything. It is something at a point in my life where you know where I am at, but, you know, it really does not determine any future success. For me, it was just trying to crack the organization.”

Dillon Heatherington

After a strong season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, Dillon Heatherington entered the draft as a well-regarded prospect; however, his high draft ranking could not restrain his nerves ahead of being taken, or his elation once selected.

“Leading up to the draft is stressful and exciting at the same time. You are curious about where you are going to end up and what round you are going to go in, but then once you get picked, it is a cool experience. My draft was in New Jersey, it was a special moment in my life to share with my family and for them to be there.”

“It is an honour. It’s something that, as a kid, you always dream about. As I said before, you keep going day-to-day and try to enjoy the process.”

Since being selected 50th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2013 Entry Draft, Heatherington has seen considerable success in the American Hockey League which includes a Calder Cup title. The Calgary, Alberta native has registered 117 points (19 goals, 98 assists) with a plus-50 rating in 418 appearances. He has also skated in 23 career NHL games.

Whether they take a relaxed approach like Bernard-Docker, or admit to the emotion of the moment, like Heatherington, all the top athletes taken in the 2023 NHL Draft are in for the experience of a lifetime. All those fortunate enough to be selected by the Senators’ organization will join one of the best developmental systems in professional hockey.