To follow Ben Mirageas on Twitter this calendar year is to take a joy ride in just how much a life can change in the course of six months. By the time the year flipped from 2016 to 2017, the Newburyport native who honed and developed his skills through Mass Hockey's player development process, had already played in the 2016 All-American Prospects Game and singed his National Letter of Intent to play at Providence College.
But it was a trade to Chicago near the USHL trade deadline that his path to the NHL Entry Draft started picking up speed.
"I just blew up as a player when I got traded to Chicago,” says Mirageas, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound, self-professed well-rounded two-way defenseman. “I just started playing my game. And that's pretty much what I needed the whole year.
Until that point, while playing for the Bloomington Thunder – where his memories are exceedingly fond for having played with his older brother, Zach, while the two lived with a billet family in an Illinois cornfield – Mirageas had scored 10 points in 45 games.
Once in Chicago, Mirageas began to pile up points, scoring a goal and adding eight assists in the 14 games that remained in the regular season. The Steel clinched their division and would advance to their first Clark Cup championship series.
During the playoffs, Mirageas scored 10 points in 14 games as the Steel went on to win the Clark Cup.
“They made me feel like I had been there the whole year,” Mirageas says. “I think that was the best hockey I've played in three or four years, to be honest. I just felt confident as ever. My body felt amazing, just the whole deal. I put my assets to work and we won a championship."
May 23: The boys did it #clarkcupchampions
Soon afterward … this tweet …
June 4: Great experience this past week at the @nhl combine! #yak
That’s right: an invite to the prestigious NHL Scouting Combine. And while Mirageas, who also played one season at Newburyport High School and during the 2015-16 season at Avon Old Farms, had been on Team USA’s radar for the U17 Five Nations in 2015 and the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer, the NHL Entry Draft wasn’t on his own radar until that invite.
Mirageas interviewed with roughly half of the NHL’s franchises, being put through the paces with lines of questioning that ranged from the rigorous to the casual.
"Yeah, that was pretty mentally tiring,” Mirageas admits. “Monday through Friday was all interviews, so you have three or four a day. Some lasted 20 minutes and some lasted five minutes.”
Oh, and about that #yak hashtag? Yes, after the infamous Wingate Cycle test, Mirageas vomited. In his defense, a week or so earlier, he’d been playing in the USHL playoffs. Now, on the virtual eve of the draft, Mirageas’ year is likely to get that much better.
"Yeah, I mean everything has started happening out of nowhere,” Mirageas says of the dream season.
As a player, the Valley Jr. Warriors alum sees his game evolving. A forward for much of his youth hockey career, Mirageas, who says his defensive game has developed in the USHL, likes to create offense from the back end.
"Quick transition is one of the strongest assets of my game,” he says. “I'd rather play offense, of course, but I like to stop a rush, right at the blue line if I can, and transition the puck to the forwards as quickly as possible. I know what it's like to be a forward. They want the puck and I know how to deliver it."
If or when his name is called at the draft, which begins June 23 at the United Center, Mirageas will have some pretty good seats. He and his family will be in Chicago for the festivities. But he’s not getting ahead of himself in terms of just were he might land.
"At the end of the day, I'd be ecstatic to be drafted,” Mirageas says. “In any round. And, then, kind of make that next step into my college career and develop as much as possible."
In addition to attending the draft, he’ll also visit with his Chicago billet family before the family jumps on a plane taking them further west to drop Zach off at the Air Force Academy, where he’ll begin his own NCAA career.
Then, for Ben, it’s back to Newburyport for a short stay before heading off to Providence in early July for an introduction to his new teammates. Between now and then, he’ll be working out, working out and working out some more in a small gym at home or at Mike Boyle's gym. He’ll return to PC for his freshman season in the fall.
"I want to be in a city, but not a really, really big city,” says Mirageas. “For me, Providence, with 4,000 students and a smaller city, would be pretty perfect for me – school-wise and hockey-wise. And Coach [Nate] Leaman obviously is an unbelievable coach.”
No doubt, the Friars will represent an entirely new challenge. Leaman, the fastest coach to 100 wins in program history, guided the team to a national championship in 2015 and has coached more than 25 NHL draft picks plus nine All-Americans. Mirageas’ recent success at the USHL level has helped ease some fears about adjusting to the game at PC and looking ahead to an even brighter future.
"Whenever you get to the new league, you have to adapt to it, especially if you’re playing with older players,” he says. “You're going to feel as though you've hit a ceiling. That happened to me at Avon and it took some time to get through. When I hit that ceiling, I realize now I have a lot more to give."