Over the summer Sam Miletic was invited to attend the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development camp. Little did he know he would be leaving with an NHL contract.
“I came to the rink one morning – just a normal day – and the assistant GM (Bill Guerin) came up and said they wanted to sign me,” said Miletic, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Penguins in September. “It was a dream come true.”
During his time at camp, Miletic got to play in two NHL preseason games with the team, and scored the opening goal during the first game. He was ready to show what he could do.
“Every thing in Pittsburgh...the NHL, I guess...is faster, everyone’s bigger, and better,” he said. “But at the end of the day you’re still playing hockey.”
For Miletic – a Michigan native and Cranbrook Kingswood alumni – hockey is something he’s played, and loved, since he was a child sleeping with his hockey skates and stick.
The 20-year-old started skating as a toddler and was encouraged to try many sports as a kid. Hockey was the sport that stuck though. Miletic soon found himself playing AAA hockey growing up, and went to Cranbrook for his freshman through junior years of high school.
“I couldn’t speak higher about Cranbrook because it’s just such a great program,” said Miletic, who plays forward. “It was hard to leave, but I thought it was the best for me at the time to advance my hockey career.”
Before leaving Cranbrook after his junior year – a year in which he had a lot of success as a player – he talked with his junior team, who thought he could make the jump, and his Cranbrook hockey coach, Andrew Weidenbach, who was also really encouraging.
Miletic said Weidenbach taught him so much during his time at Cranbrook, like about all the little details of the game and was a huge influence on his career.
After leaving Crankbrook, Miletic played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League during the 2014-2015 season and then went to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. He will play one more season with the Knights before making the permanent move to Pittsburgh next year.
But his greatest hockey influence wouldn’t be any of those listed above. It would be his dad.
“He played hockey a little bit and he was always there with me, just all the tournaments we did, driving countless hours to practice, being up super early,” Miletic said. “He’s my number one for sure.”
So now that Miletic has gotten one step closer to achieving his childhood dream, does he have any advice for someone hoping to fulfill a similar one?
“Honestly, just make sure you love it because it is a grind,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t see. You have to work really hard, and if you love it every day, and you love going to the rink, then it’s all worth it and it doesn’t seem like a job. You just enjoy it every single day.”