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NHL Draft: Brett Pesce's hard work about to pay off

New Hampshire's Brett Pesce is seen during the

New Hampshire's Brett Pesce is seen during the second period of the NCAA regional semifinal hockey game against Denver in Manchester, N.H. (March 29, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

In preparation for the 2013 NHL Draft on June 30, Brett Pesce has done his fair share of traveling from team workouts to the NHL Combine. And it's been during these trips when he fully recognizes who is responsible for putting him in this position.

"I thank my parents for hauling me around all these years," Pesce said while on a recent drive from New Hampshire to New York. "I didn't realize how much they really did for me when I was younger. Letting me play travel [hockey] and letting me do what I wanted -- it's pretty remarkable. This drive, a four-hour trip, it's nothing for them. It's what they did every weekend, so I'm really appreciative and thankful for everything they did."

Though he has his parents to thank for giving him a chance to succeed, the 6-foot, 170-pound University of New Hampshire defenseman has himself to thank for capitalizing on those opportunities.

A highly touted prospect, Pesce worked hard from the moment he stepped on campus, and earned himself a spot in the rotation almost immediately. He was so good that he forced New Hampshire coach Dick Umile to give him significant minutes, something he rarely does with freshmen.

"From day one, he stepped in and played the position for us, and he's played it very well," Umile said. "He's very mature, and obviously, a very talented hockey player. He's developed into one of the better defensive freshmen in college hockey."

The Tarrytown product has skyrocketed up the draft board since the beginning of the year, and ranks in the top 40 for all North American prospects for the 2013 draft. He is the top-ranked collegiate hockey player and second highest defenseman available in the draft. Though he only registered one goal and six points in 38 games for New Hampshire this past season, it's easy for Umile to see why many NHL teams covet him.

"He handles himself extremely well in one-on-one situations," Umile said. "He wins those battles. Defensively, he's as good as anyone."

There are facets of Pesce's game that need to be improved, and he'll be the first to tell you. He's going to spend all summer refining his shot and has plans to take skating lessons to work on lengthening his strides in order to get faster in the open ice.

Though he is projected as a second- or third-round selection, Pesce is grounded about his situation and has plans to return to school to grow and develop as a player.

"Getting drafted is nice, but ultimately, it's not my main goal," Pesce said. "My main goal is to play in the National Hockey League and this is just kind of like a stepping-stone. It's one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me and it's a nice accomplishment, but in the long run, it doesn't mean anything."

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