BRANDON — For a ninth-grade paper, Quinton Howden had to come up with 30 goals he wanted to accomplish before he turned 30 years old.
Many revolved around hockey for Howden, 24, now a forward for his hometown Winnipeg Jets. But one was extra special.
"Play in the NHL with my brother, Brett."
So you can imagine the feeling for both brothers when Brett, 18, also a forward, was selected 27th overall by the Lightning in the June 24 draft in Buffalo. Six years earlier, Brett had watched Quinton get picked No. 25 by the Panthers. Quinton was the second person Brett hugged before heading to the stage.
"We just looked at each other and started smiling," Brett said at last week's Lightning development camp at the Ice Sports Forum.
"I couldn't believe how close we were in the draft. He was 25; I was 27. It was cool we got to swap shoes and see how each other felt."
Said Quinton: "I was just as nervous as he was. To see him follow in those footsteps … and finding a way to make his own name, it's pretty remarkable."
Their father, Sheldon, had another way to look at it. "Honestly," he said, "it turned out to be a fairy tale ending."
For Brett, his big brother has always been his model.
"I tried to do everything he did," Brett said.
Both are left-shot centers. Both played for Moose Jaw in the junior Western Hockey League, Brett wearing Quinton's No. 21. They stayed with the same host family.
Brett joined his dad at Quinton's games in Moose Jaw, his brother noticing how well he studied and read the game.
"I was there almost every other weekend," Brett said. "It was a six-hour drive, but by the end it just felt like a couple hours. Just watching (Quinton), seeing how he took care of himself and how he played."
Said Quinton: "(Brett) would go and watch the clips of every goal. He was basically getting better on his own not knowing it."
Not that they're carbon copies of each other.
Sheldon said Quinton is more of a perfectionist, organized, deliberate. Brett is more of a free spirit, a "go with the flow" guy. Quinton is very superstitious, Brett only a little.
And on the ice? Quinton is known for his speed and shot. Brett, at 6 feet 2, is two-way forward who uses his size and whom Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray dubs a "no-maintenance player."
Brett had 24 goals and 40 assists last season for the Warriors, playing with touted Lightning center prospect Brayden Point. Point said Lightning officials asked him about Brett before the draft. He said he told them Brett is a complete player.
"Can't say enough good things," Point said.
Neither can Quinton.
"He's a completely different player," Quinton said of Brett. "I've always had my speed, and he's got the hockey sense, he's got the patience, and he's definitely got the finish. I think he's going to be a dominant player one day in the NHL."
Brett remembers Quinton's draft at the Staples Center in Los Angeles like it was yesterday.
"It was pretty surreal," Brett said.
Quinton has 10 goals (17 points) in 92 career NHL games, all with the Panthers. He signed with the Jets as a free agent the month.
Brett watched on television as his brother scored his first NHL goal — against the Lightning on March 13, 2014, beating goalie Ben Bishop.
"The reaction on his face when he scored, it's a feeling I want to have one day," Brett said. "Hopefully it's closer than farther away."
Quinton said his ninth-grade teacher gave him back that paper — 30 goals before he turns 30 — last summer.
"It's pretty funny to look at," Quinton said.
In a few years, Quinton's goal of playing in the NHL with Brett might be more fitting than funny.
"It's pretty cool that it's coming closer and closer," Brett said. "Hopefully one day it'll happen."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.