Ohio State hockey player Tommy Parran didn’t see himself making it to this point.
“I never thought I’d honestly get this far,” the freshman defenseman said.
When the 20-year-old uttered those words with pride and thankfulness present in his voice, “this far” represented a lot more than the mere two hours separating him from Columbus and his hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Parran developed his game at the Tier 1 level with the Cleveland Barons program in Parma, Ohio. The Barons have sent numerous players to the NCAA Division I level and beyond, some of which starred at OSU, including Tommy Goebel and John Albert, a former Buckeyes captain and current captain of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
It’s a rite of passage for the majority of hockey players wishing to play college hockey to spend a year or two in the junior ranks. In terms of where to play junior hockey, the United States Hockey League is the top junior league in the U.S., in addition to being the only Tier 1 junior league in the country.
Of the 26 players on OSU’s roster, 20 have come by way of the USHL.
In May 2012, there was a possibility that Parran might be a part of the league via the USHL entry draft.
When the draft began he waited, watching the names of players scroll by one after one. Round after round went by and Parran still didn’t have his name called.
But in the 21st round, with pick No. 309, the Youngstown Phantoms took him with their final pick in the draft — right behind current Buckeye defenseman Victor Björkung, who was selected by the Fargo Force.
Being selected that low in the draft didn’t mean anything to Parran other than that it was time to go to work.
Although Parran spent another season in Cleveland with the Barons, he was able to take advantage of an opportunity presented to him by the Phantoms: He could practice with the team whenever he wanted to.
Not wanting to leave the opportunity on the table, Parran would often load his equipment into his car and make the hourlong trip out to Youngstown to practice with the team, hoping to secure a full-time spot on the roster next season.
His dedication and grit powered Parran onto the Phantoms for the 2013-14 season. His constant presence around Youngstown the year prior made it a tough decision to leave Parran off the team.
“He’s a good kid, well-spoken, great in the community, very intelligent, does things the right way, doesn’t cut corners,” then-Phantoms coach and current Orlando Solar Bears coach Anthony Noreen said. “When you do things like that you give yourself a chance. It’s hard to cut guys like that.”
During his first year in Youngstown, Parran made a commitment to Brown University, turning down others from two fellow Ivy League schools — Princeton and Harvard.
But a year later, while still with the Phantoms, Parran had doubts about what was in store for his future and decommitted.
“By Christmastime of my second year, it made sense to look for a place that would develop me more as a hockey player, while still having school be manageable and help me with school as well,” Parran said. “Somewhere that cares about their hockey program, that cares about their athletes and makes it a priority to help them get through school and be the best they can be at their sport.”
Joe Exter, OSU’s goaltending coach, got on the ball soon after Parran’s decommitment from Brown. He, along with Buckeyes’ coach Steve Rohlik, enticed him to stay in Ohio for his collegiate career.
“To me, (OSU) has the total package, the academics and the athletics,” Rohlik said. “So if someone walks around this university and sees the history and the tradition, what the people are all about here. They see the buildings and what they do athletically here, all these guys are taken care of. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
In the 26-piece jigsaw puzzle Rohlik envisioned for his team, he saw Parran being a key piece in Columbus.
“His skating mobility, he’s got good size, he’s a six-footer but he’s a thick kid,” Rohlik said. “When you see him, nothing really rattles him, he kind of stays on the same page. From the outside looking in, he keeps that even keel. For us, we were looking for a mobile defenseman. He’s an in-state kid. We thought he’d be a good fit in the program.”
Injuries have allowed the St. Ignatius High School graduate to hop right into the mix this season.
OSU currently sits winless in six tries, now three weeks into the 2015 campaign. Parran, however, has seen the ice in five of those six games.
“We didn’t bring him in here to go end to end or anything like that,” Rohlik said. “We’re not asking a lot out of him right now even though with the injuries and whatnot on the blue line, he’s gotten thrown into the fire having to play a lot of minutes.”
As for now, the freshman acknowledges how much it took to get here and is enjoying the moment.
“It’s been a battle,” Parran said. “If you put work in every day and you put your mind to a goal … hopefully it’ll pay off in the long run.”