CRANBERRY TWP — Since he was a little kid, Alex Gritz has dreamed about playing in the NHL.
Now he’s getting serious about it.
Gritz, 15, of Cranberry Township was recently selected in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League draft by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was the 50th player selected overall.
The Seneca Valley freshman played for the Waterloo Wolves minor midget Class AAA team in Ontario this past season. Playing center, he led the Wolves in scoring with 44 goals and 52 assists in 84 games and helped the team win the Alliance League championship.
“I just felt the timing was right to go up there,” said Gritz, who stayed with a host family before recently returning home. “I wanted to be eligible for the OHL draft and that worked out for me.”
Gritz previously played three seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. He played three years for the Junior Penguins before that and has been playing organized hockey since age 6.
“Alex is a passionate kid when it comes to hockey,” Eric Gritz said of his son. “We didn’t want to let him go, but he’s also a good student and a good kid. We didn’t want to hold him back.”
Gritz scored 50 goals and tallied 48 assists for the Penguins Elite two years ago. He is eligible to play for Sault Ste. Marie for four seasons.
He’s hoping he’s not around that long.
“After two seasons in the league, you’re eligible for the NHL draft,” Gritz said. “I’m hoping I’m playing well enough to be drafted at that point.”
Gritz said the schooling in Waterloo “doesn’t go as fast” as at Seneca Valley. He’s taking five cyber courses now to catch up.
He will stay with a host family again next season — Sault Ste. Marie begins training camp in August — and is unsure whether players on the Greyhounds take cyber courses or attend class.
“Either way, I’ll take care of my education,” Gritz promised.
Former Seneca Valley student Mike Weber left home early years ago to play junior hockey. He was eventually drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and now plays for the Washington Capitals.
“I don’t know him, but I know of him,” Gritz said of Weber. “I’ve studied up on players from the Pittsburgh area who play in the (National Hockey) league.
“Getting drafted by the OHL, I know I’m heading in the right direction.”
At 5-foot-10, 166 pounds, Gritz says he “goes all out” on the ice. He is a fast skater with a quick shot.
“I like to control the gate and I love playing in the big moments,” he said. “I’ve scored a lot of game-winning goals.”
He netted the game-winner for Waterloo in the Alliance League championship game.
“His goal has always been to play in the NHL, for as long as I can remember,” Eric Gritz said. “He’s pretty serious about it.”
Gritz has been working with Steve Emmett — a coach from Ontario — on hockey skills and development for the past five years.
Emmett is owner and president of SCE Hockey, a professional hockey development organization in Ontario. He comes to Cranberry to work with Gritz and other players,.
“He’s really helped me,” Gritz said. “I’m the first hockey player in my family. My dad is a big hockey fan and he introduced me to the sport.
“Now I’m just trying to take it as far as I can.”