There’s a gut feeling Troy Crema gets when he hears the NHL uttered in conversation.
The 19-year-old is fresh off his freshman year at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and even though he’s pushing 20 he knows there’s still an opportunity to reach that elite level.
“Just playing college hockey right now, you realize you’re one step closer,” he said in a recent conversation at North Toronto Arena, one of many facilities he played in while playing rep in North York and as a Crescent Coyote. “My whole plan when I was 10 was to play college hockey and make it to the NHL.
“You see all these players around you getting signed by NHL teams, it’s like a pretty cool feeling that in one, two, maybe three years that could be you.”
When the Town Crier first spoke with Crema two years ago he had his sights set on the NHL via Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Though the North Toronto native is still in the Ivy League, and competing with a Division 1 hockey team, a fortuitous meeting with then-assistant coach Dave Peters of Dartmouth, after an OJHL exhibition game with Hamilton Red Wings, led him to the Granite State.
“I knew a few schools were watching, like Canisius and Yale, but I ended leaving the ice after the exhibition game and my coach said there’s a coach here from a school and he wants to talk to you,” Crema said. “When I came out to talk to him, it was Dave Peters from Dartmouth and he said, ‘We love you, and we’d like you to come next year to play for us’.”
Crema started on the fourth line for the first two games, but after scoring his first goal against Brown University he was centring the top line with Eric Neiley and Brandon McNally.
He put up four goals and three assists in 14 games, but just after Christmas re-aggravated a high ankle sprain that he had suffered during a practice.
The economics major is back home now, working with strength-conditioning coach Justin Hyland, along with dad Ken Crema and sister Madison, to strengthen up for the 2014-15 Big Green season.
And though he’s creeping up to the 20s, he is still eligible for the 2015 NHL entry draft, to be held in Sunrise, Fla.
“I know Tanner Pearson is a guy who played for Barrie in the OHL, and he got drafted as a 20-year-old,” he said of the Los Angeles Kings winger. “That’s a guy you can look up to.”