Since the days of Bobby Orr & the Big, Bad Bruins of the 1970s, every local kid who has laced up skates, and learned how to play ice hockey, has dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League, more specifically for the Boston Bruins.
Woburn resident Riley Duran, son of Woburn High boys’ hockey coach and athletic director Jim Duran, has had his dream last longer than most. In fact, he is still very much pursuing it.
Riley Duran (6-2, 175) still has a long way to go, having just graduated from high school, but his dream got tremendous validation when he was drafted by the Bruins in the sixth round of the NHL Draft 2020, Wednesday night.
“It was absolutely mind-blowing,” he said, in a phone call, yesterday evening. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
Preparing for this year’s draft was many years in the making, the high school portion beginning with the Tanners, his freshman year, followed by a year at Malden Catholic, and then two years at Lawrence Academy in Groton.
While his team’s postseason was cut short by the pandemic, Duran earned ISL MVP while leading his team in scoring with 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points.
“I was just hoping I’d get picked,” said Duran, of his hopes and expectations for Wednesday. “Then I was hoping to get picked by Boston.”
Riley Duran was nervous that day so he took some of the edge off over the first couple of rounds by following his daily routine since the COVID-19 settled in.
“Practicing and working out distracted me during the day,” he said. “Then we were just sitting there watching it on TV.”
Riley was sort of just hanging out, not wanting to drive himself crazy, while his parents watched each pick intently.
When the Bruins pick came up in the sixth round, a buzz developed in the Duran household, as everyone awaited their pick. About three minutes before their pick was due, Duran got the phone call from Cam Neely, and moments later the choice was announced, and Duran family euphoria ensued.
Duran was supremely overjoyed at that point, and he was still pretty much on that high.
“I had an interview with the Bruins where they asked me a couple questions,” he said, in a followup for the press on being drafted. “I don’t even know what I said, I was so blown away.”
He has been out in Ohio preparing for the upcoming season in the United States Hockey League (USHL), where he will play for the Youngstown Phantoms, coached by Brad Patterson. The season begins on Nov. 7.
Duran will play this season for the Phantoms before he moves on to Providence College to play for the Friars.
“The Bruins will be helping me out along the way,” said Riley, as the Bruins’ keep an eye on his progress. “Hopefully they will like what they see and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Duran is a versatile, skilled player who was able to stand out both on offense and defense in his freshman year at Woburn High during the 2016-17 season. He was called on to play defense when the Tanners’ top defenders went down with injuries.
He scored 11 goals with 14 assists for 25 points in his one season with the Tanners.
Duran returned to playing forward the rest of his high school career and was highly-productive each season. Although he played wing his last two years at Lawrence, Duran likes the idea of becoming a center, which would best utilize his skill set as both a passer, scorer and forechecker.
Yes, there are still several more goals to be scored, and reached, but being drafted by the Bruins, and the prospect of playing for them on the TD Garden ice surely has given Duran a natural boost of energy for his daily workouts.