Graham Black (WHL images)Unfortunately for Graham Black, he took his fair share of trips to the doctor's office while growing up in Regina. He was diagnosed with Graves' disease early in life. The autoimmune disorder hindered his hockey career, but he's made up for lost time in the past few seasons.
"I had Graves' disease when I was younger, which is in your thyroid and neck," says Black, who is NHL Central Scouting's 83rd-ranked North American skater. "It was an obstacle in my physical development. But I'm over it now."
His early health issues contributed to Black being regarded as a late bloomer. The 6-foot, 173-pound centre played out his full tenure in Saskatchewan's midget AAA league after he was unable to crack the Edmonton Oil Kings lineup out of training camp a year ago. Given that the Oil Kings were a season away from winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup, that's no knock on him.
"I knew the Oil Kings would be a tough team to make," says Black. "I guess my slower development slowed me down in terms of gaining muscle. But I don't want to use it as an excuse for not making Edmonton. They had a lot of good players at camp."
After not making the team, the Oil Kings dealt Black to the Swift Current Broncos in December 2010. He didn't pack his bags and head to Swift Current, though. Instead, he was told to finish the year with the Regina Pat Canadians and prepare for training camp in September.
"Swift Current was a fresh start for me," says Black. "I wasn't guaranteed a spot, but I went into camp with the mindset that I have to outwork the other guys and give them a good reason to keep me on the team."
Black didn't take this fresh start in Swift Current lightly. He made the Broncos out of camp and slowly but surely became one of their go-to goal scorers. The 19-year-old tallied 17 goals and 50 points throughout 71 games in his first season, finishing tied for ninth in points among rookies in the Dub.
Most were quite surprised by how frequently Black found the back of the net this year considering he couldn't crack the league a year ago. However, taking into account Black led the SMHL in points last year with 47 goals and 76 points in 43 games, maybe one shouldn't have been taken off guard at all by his scoring success.
Despite not being on the draft radar in his first year of eligibility last year, it seems Black is poised to have his name called on the draft floor this year. For a young man who didn't even know whether he would make the Broncos this year, Black was pleasantly surprised to be among their top 90 defenceman and forwards in North America.
"I was really surprised by how high Central Scouting ranked me," says Black. "I didn't expect it, but was really happy. I never would have guessed this a year ago."
1. How do you think your first season of major junior hockey went?
"I am really happy with my rookie season. I am a bit surprised how good it went. I didn't know exactly what to expect coming into a full season in this league."
2. Do you try to model your game after a player in the NHL?
"I just try to play my game. I don't model it after anyone. But my favourite player is [Detroit Red Wings centre] Pavel Datsyuk. He has unbelievable hands and plays a strong two-way game."
3. Who is your favourite NHL team?
"I am a big fan of the Colorado Avalanche. I've always liked Joe Sakic and ever seen he brought them the cup I've been a huge fan."
4. What type of music do you like to listen to before a game?
"I like Skrillex, kind of the new stuff that is coming out."
5. Who do you think is the hardest defenceman to play against in the Dub?
"Either (Edmonton Oil Kings') Mark Pysyk or (Prince Albert Raiders') Harrison Ruopp. They keep you on your toes and make you earn everything out there."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen