Derrick Pouliot could not have dreamed up a better way to live out the dream of every Canadian hockey player on Friday night.
The Estevan-born, Lampman-raised defenceman, who now lives in Weyburn, was selected eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
And it got better: Pouliot was selected by the home team, and heard the roars of his future fan base as he walked to the podium to meet some guy named Mario Lemieux, as well as the rest of the Penguins' brain trust.
"Being picked in front of the home crowd made it that much more special," Pouliot said Monday in an interview with The Mercury.
"It was a pretty unreal experience. I know lots of people probably dream of getting to shake Mario Lemieux's hand and I was lucky enough to do that."
And it gets still better: the Penguins traded star centre Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for the right to move up in the draft and select Pouliot. They also got centre Brandon Sutter and defenceman Brian Dumoulin in the swap, which was announced just prior to the eighth pick.
But Pouliot said he doesn't feel any extra weight on his shoulders as a result of being indirectly involved in the Staal trade — and, many would say, being the most valuable asset acquired in return.
"I don't think it puts on too much more pressure. That was a big trade and I guess it says Pittsburgh likes me. Hopefully I'll be able to go into camp and show that I was a good pick," said the 18-year-old, who has spent the last two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks.
Many in the hockey world were surprised that Pouliot was taken in the top 10. The NHL's Central Scouting Service ranked him 12th among North American skaters, International Scouting Services had him 19th overall and TSN's final rankings placed him at 17th overall.
Pouliot was the sixth defenceman chosen in a draft crammed full of promising defencemen.
But Pouliot said he didn't have any expectations as to when he would be taken.
"Maybe a little bit (surprised), we weren't really sure what was going to happen. But those are just mock drafts and nobody really knows what the team wants or what they're looking for," he said.
Pouliot will attend the Penguins' prospects development camp next month and from there, find out what the team wants him to do with his training and what they want him to work on.
Pouliot finished fourth among WHL defenceman with 11 goals and 59 points last season. He has been compared to current Pittsburgh offensive rearguard Kris Letang.
Pouliot said he hopes he can fulfil that kind of role in the NHL.
I think I'm a good offensive defenceman, good skater, good vision with the puck, good vision on the ice. Hopefully I'll be able to bring that to Pittsburgh and do whatever it takes to help my team win," he said.
"I still need to step up my defensive game and get a little bit stronger to handle the faster guys. It's (working on) general strength and quickness right now."
When he makes the jump to the NHL, Pouliot can look forward to playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Letang.
"It's really exciting. Those guys are some of the best players in the world. It's not too often you even get to see them play, (let alone) play with them," he said.