Judd Caulfield drafted by Pittsburgh
Every time an NHL team stepped up to the microphone and started announcing its latest pick with the words, "From the National Team Development Program," Judd Caulfield's ears perked up.
He heard it a lot.
In fact, he heard it 14 times Friday and Saturday, only to hear a teammate's name to follow.
But his time eventually arrived in Rogers Arena.
With the No. 145 pick in the fifth round, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they had selected Caulfield, who starred at Grand Forks Central, was a role player on a star-studded National Team Development Program squad last season and will return home to Grand Forks to play for UND in the fall.
The Grand Forks native pulled a Penguins jersey over his head, met people from the organization and was whisked into the media room, where the soft-spoken power forward talked about the draft and his game.
"It's unbelievable. I've dreamt of this my whole life," Caulfield said. "Words can't really describe it. It's a dream come true.
"It's hard to believe being a part of a team with such great history and tradition and culture."
Caulfield is the 17th Greater Grand Forks product to be selected in the NHL Draft and the first since Gage Ausmus, Luke Johnson and Tucker Poolman all went in the fifth round -- the same as Caulfield -- in 2013.
He's the first UND player to be selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2001, when they selected another Grand Forks native in Andy Schneider.
There also is some irony in the Penguins taking Caulfield.
Back in 1988, the Penguins signed a Caufield (notice the spelling difference) who played college hockey at North Dakota. That Caufield won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh.
"I don't have any relation to Jay Caufield, but I definitely heard a lot of stories about him," Judd said.
UND coach Brad Berry, who was in attendance at the draft, said he was happy to see Caulfield get picked.
"It's great to see," Berry said. "I'm really proud of him. He really worked his tail off when he was in Grand Forks at Grand Forks Central. He worked his tail off this past year again. It's great to see a nice local product get rewarded like that in the draft.
"Pittsburgh is a good organization and hopefully they'll take time with Judd as far as his progress at North Dakota at not rush him."
Caulfield is a second-generation draft pick. His father, Bob, who was in Vancouver, was selected No. 84 overall by the New York Islanders in 1983. The rest of Caulfield's family also was in attendance -- his mother, Danelle, brothers Collin and Carson and sisters Jozy and Cassy.
"It's been great to have the whole family here together," Caulfield said. "We haven't all been in one place together since Christmastime. Just to be able to spend these moments with them is unbelievable."
But after a year of watching draft rankings, and two days waiting for his name to follow, "From the National Team Development Program," Caulfield said it is nice to have the draft in the books.
"There is a sense of relief to put this aside and start looking forward to next year," he said.
Editor’s note: Bob Caulfield was a standout hockey player for Detroit Lakes in the early 80’s.