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Jeremy Bracco hoping his NHL draft dream will come true

Freeport's Jeremy Bracco poses at Islanders IceWorks in

Freeport's Jeremy Bracco poses at Islanders IceWorks in Syosset on June 18, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Peter Cappiello

Jeremy Bracco daydreamed as he listened to the names being called during the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia last year.

The Freeport native had made the trip to support his friend, Massapequa's Sonny Milano, who was chosen by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round that day.

"I just remember sitting there and being nervous," Bracco said, imagining that his own name would be announced instead. "I think whenever you're in an atmosphere like that and you're waiting to hear your name called, you're thinking of the possibilities.''

For Bracco, now 18 years old, last year was a dress rehearsal of sorts. This time it's his turn.

The 5-10, 165-pound right wing, who played at the Portledge School in Locust Valley before joining the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, has been mentioned as a possible first- or second-round pick, according to various scouting services and published reports. The NHL will conduct its draft Friday in Sunrise, Florida.

"You always think about it as a kid growing up," Bracco said. "It's always been a dream to play in the NHL.

"Obviously, people are going to have their doubts about height and stuff like that, but I know I can play and do my best, and I'm going to help my team any way I can."

Committed to Boston College, Bracco said the player he most admires is the 5-11 Patrick Kane, who recently won his third Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Rangers, his favorite team growing up, also provide inspiration in the form of 5-7 Mats Zuccarello.

"I'm always going to have a place for a small guy that can prove people wrong," said Bracco, whose family is "about 5-10 across the board."

He said he has spoken with 28 teams, receiving varying degrees of interest.

"My strength, my playmaking ability and my hockey IQ,'' Bracco said. "That's what separates me and makes my game special.''

Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark said Bracco "has more of an up-and-down game, driving to the posts; Milano's more east-west.''

Milano spent the 2014-15 season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 22 goals before joining the Springfield Falcons, the Blue Jackets' top minor-league team, for 10 games.

The hope with players of Bracco's size is that they will "grow a bit, add some muscle," Clark said.

But there's a place on NHL teams for smaller, skilled players "if they've got something special," Clark said, pointing to Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau (also from Boston College) and Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson. "Those guys do."

Bracco has heard it before.

"People always question him at every level," said his father, Michael, a goaltender at Dartmouth from 1990-94. "I remember when he was a squirt, people said they didn't know if he would play bantams.''

Bracco was introduced to hockey at age "2 or 3," Michael said. He remembers family games in the three-car garage-turned-makeshift rink with fake ice and boards.

Michael's brothers Jon and Rob played hockey at St. Lawrence and Plattsburgh, respectively. The three run Bracco's Clam and Oyster Bar on Freeport's Nautical Mile, but don't expect Jeremy to come to work anytime soon.

His next step is familiar: sitting in an arena, listening for his name.

"It's kind of everything I've worked for," Bracco said. "To be drafted is going to be a great experience, but from then, the work just starts. I always wanted to be an NHL player. I have my heart set on that.''

With Steve Zipay

New York Sports