SUNRISE, Fla. - Jeremy Bracco's parents had Islanders season tickets when he grew up in Freeport, but he was diplomatic about his favorite team Saturday, just minutes after the Toronto Maple Leafs made Bracco the 61st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
"We didn't really have a favorite team to root for," Bracco said.
The 5-9, 173-pound forward doesn't have to worry about allegiances. His dream was simply to be drafted and he got there as the final pick of the second round, joining a team and a fan base that could best be described as long-suffering.
The Leafs made a host of picks early in this weekend's draft, selecting five of the first 68 players taken. Bracco was the lone American and now joins an organization in the midst of a major retooling.
Bracco said he's spent time in Toronto playing in youth tournaments. "It's amazing when you're really young, so I can only imagine what it'll be like as a pro," he said.
The cheers that went up inside the BB&T Center when Bracco's name was called made it sound as if more than a few Leafs fans made the trip south. But that was just a few generations of Braccos making themselves heard. "Grandparents, a few family friends, my brother," Bracco said. "They're all pretty excited."
Bracco attended last year's draft in Philadelphia to see Sonny Milano of Massapequa, his friend and fellow U.S. National Development program player, get selected 16th overall by the Blue Jackets. Milano decommitted from Boston College and spent last season with Plymouth of the Ontario League, ostensibly to provide a quicker path to the NHL.
For this coming season, Bracco said he is concentrating on his Boston College commitment. "This is one of the best feelings you could ever have," he said, "but [BC] is my focus for next season."
Another Long Islander and USNDP player heard his name called later Saturday. Steven Ruggiero, a defenseman out of Kings Park who played last season with Bracco on the Under-18 team, was selected in the sixth round, 178th overall, by the Ducks.
The 6-3, 200-pound Ruggiero is headed for defending NCAA hockey champion Providence College in the fall.