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You’ve watched him grow up.
From being a curly-haired eight-year-old kid to a handsome six-foot-three young man who celebrated his 20th birthday Monday, you’ve seen the transformation of Harrison Katz.
Every year, the son of Edmonton owner Daryl Katz would head up on stage with the Oilers management contingent to make the team’s first pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
Tuesday night, for the first time since his dad bought the team in 2008, Harrison Katz won’t be there because there is no there to be.
“I know. My streak is over,” he laughed on the phone from the University of Southern California, where he’ll watch on his computer screen when the Oilers pick 14th overall in this year’s delayed coronavirus pandemic production of the annual draft.
One thing about it, this year Harrison won’t have to worry about tripping on the top step going up on stage.
“I kind of tripped walking up the stairs and Gary Bettman had to sort of catch me,” he said of an early draft experience involving the NHL commissioner.
Harrison Katz was up there on stage for all the Oilers picks during the Daryl Katz ownership era.
Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg.
You’d figure he’d have all those pictures framed on a wall, but he doesn’t.
“I saved all the credentials, though,” he said in an exclusive interview I’ve been trying to obtain since he was about 12, not just because he’s such an obvious human interest story but because he’s likely the future co-owner of the franchise along with twin sister Chloe, both of whom are headed to law school next year.
“My first one was 2009 in Montreal, when we selected Paajarvi,” said the young man currently enrolled in business while Chloe is also at USC in film studies.
“It’s going to be strange not going to the draft this year. I’ve always loved the part of it, involving the potential toward building a winning team. I always liked it because of the process I experienced while sitting in with some of the management guys before the draft, when I was lucky enough to sit in on some of the meetings.
“I just found it incredibly interesting to go through all the different players to see who might be a fit on the team.”
Harrison’s first exposure to the NHL inner sanctum wasn’t at the draft.
“At my first draft, I was just excited to be around all the people in the hockey world, although I’d had a bit of a different look at it when my dad bought the team and brought me to his first board of governors meeting.
“I think Gary Bettman was a little confused about why I was in the room,” he said of the commissioner having on eight-year-old sitting in on proceedings. “But I walked around and met all the owners, so that was my introduction.”
When his dad heard I’d done an interview with Harrison, I received a rare call from the owner.
“I don’t know if he told you when I went to the board of governors meeting and the board interviewed me, I took him to the meetings and the governors wanted to talk to him more than they wanted to talk to me,” he said. “He has an innate interest in hockey and the Oilers. And he loves the draft. I’ll tell you one thing, he’ll never miss another draft. Never. He absolutely loves the draft.
“Not only that, he’s been to all the scout meetings. He’s a great kid. He’s as passionate as they come. When he first went, he could have been a runner, but he wanted to experience what happened at the table. He said he wanted to see the action with the guys on the phone, the trades, the conversations and the lists. And he loves the Oilers. He talks to Wayne Gretzky and Bob Nicholson all the time. He has great mentors in Bob and Wayne.”
The eight-year-old Harrison and the 20-year-old Harrison, of course, have some different perspectives.
Harrison remembers the Taylor or Tyler year, when he was nine and it was either Hall or Seguin first overall.
“We had the top prospects over to the house in Edmonton. It was so cool for a young kid to be able to just talk to them and take them out to shoot pucks on me in the back yard.”
It’s different now, picking 14th, than it was picking first or not long later.
“Obviously, the year with Connor McDavid was incredible.
“It’s interesting because for the majority of the drafts I’ve gone to, we’ve had a pretty good idea who we were taking because we were picking so high in the selection order.
“Once we moved back a little bit, like in 2017 when we were picking 24, I think, there was just so much more anticipation with what would unfold.”
Harrison said he doesn’t think about the only kid in the world to have had this experience.
“With the passion I have for hockey, I just consider myself just exceptionally fortunate to be the son of an owner and just as fortunate for him to include me.”
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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