LEWISTON — It wasn’t quite the phone call Connor Anthoine was expecting to get.

“My buddy called me, I was out trying out for a USHL team,” Anthoine said. “He said, ‘Hey, you just got drafted by the Maineiacs.’ I was like, ‘What?'”

Anthoine hung up with his friend and called his father, who looked into it a bit further. Sure enough, in the ninth round of the QMJHL entry draft, there was his name.

“I was surprised, but I was extremely happy,” Anthoine said. “It’s such an honor, it really is, to be able to come home and have a chance to play.”

A Lewiston native, Anthoine hasn’t played much of his hockey at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in recent years. In fact, the last time he skated in a game at the rink?

“I was a peewee, playing Lewiston Junior Maineiacs,” he said. “It’s been that long.”

As a bantam and as a midget, he played for the Portland Junior Pirates, and last season he spent with the Green Mountain Glades of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. He’s also verbally committed to the University of Vermont in the Hockey East division of NCAA hockey

But the thought of skating with, and at least trying out for the Maineiacs intrigued him.

“It’s one of those things, I mean, I remember being at the tailgate party the first season when they first got here,” Anthoine said. “You grow up wanting to be able to play hockey at this level.”

Anthoine isn’t the first local skater to try out for the team. Two others have gone through camp and played full seasons — Colby Gilbert and Eric Bonawitz. But Anthoine is the first area player the Maineiacs have drafted since arriving in Lewiston. The prospect of having a local player skate with the team for multiple seasons isn’t lost on the team’s staff.

“He’s not a person who’s been drafted by this team because he’s from Maine,” Maineiacs’ GM Roger Shannon said. “He was drafted because he’s a player we want to see play in this organization, and he’s a player who’s more than good enough to play. He’s also only 17, and he could have a long career here.”

Shannon was far from guaranteeing that Anthoine would make the squad if camp broke today, but he did admit that the young forward has already turned some heads.

“He got voted star of the day by the staff (Thursday),” Shannon said. “I’ve seen him play for a while, so to me it’s not a big surprise. But to the coach, who’d never seen him skate … they go out and watch him and they’re like, ‘Wow, he’s a good player.’ Well, it’s one of those things, we know that, or we wouldn’t have drafted him.”

“In practice, he’s been pretty good, I didn’t realize he had hands like he does,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “He’s a pretty skilled and gifted player. In the game (Thursday), he competed hard, he made things happen, he made some good plays. We’ll see what happens, and we have a lot of good players, but Connor certainly did stand out.”

Despite the praise, Anthoine is taking things slowly.

“As of right now, everything is still up in the air,” Anthoine said. “I guess we’ll find out Saturday, maybe, but as of right now, there’s no decision being made. I’m just letting things roll out and see what happens.”

“I’m still trying to weigh all my options right now, and I still need to make the team.”

Whatever he decides, Shannon said, will be just fine by him, and the team.

“He’s got a great future in hockey, whatever he decides,” Shannon said. “We just keep watching him over the next couple of days and sit down and see where his head is, and what his plans are and try to work with the family to come up with a good solution.”

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