OTTAWA — David Carle said he never expected to be taken in this year's draft.
Who, after all, would want him? It's not as if there is call in the NHL for an athlete with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a genetic thickening of the heart that can cause a sudden heart attack, especially under great exertion.
But that didn't stop the Lightning, which on Saturday at Scotiabank Place took the defenseman with the last of its eight picks, in the seventh round at 203rd overall.
"I talked to them, and they didn't draft me for hockey, but for me more as a person," Carle said by phone while waiting to fly home to Anchorage from Minnesota, where he was being tested at the Mayo Clinic.
"They said I worked hard to get where I am in my sport and they wanted me to have that by my name. It shows how classy an organization they are."
Carle has a connection to prospective Lightning owner Oren Koules, whose son attends the same Minnesota high school, Shattuck-St. Mary's, from which Carle graduated.
"But this has nothing to do with our personal relationship," Koules said. "The kid worked his whole life to be drafted in the NHL. I didn't see a reason why he shouldn't be."
Before the combine, Carle, 18, was a lock to be drafted.
The brother of Sharks defenseman Matt Carle, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 60 North American skater. He skates like "a pro," says the scouting report. "He has a very heavy shot, and he plays the body hard."
Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen said Carle tested "phenomenal" at the combine.
But that is where doctors, through an EKG, found the defect. Tests at the Mayo Clinic confirmed the diagnosis, and Carle withdrew from the draft.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "At the same time, I realize there's more to life than hockey. I can still be involved with the game, so it's not all bad."
Carle said his scholarship to the University of Denver will be honored, and he said he can live a full life with his condition, just without sudden exertion.
"I'm just glad they found it," he said. "The scary part is there are no symptoms. I didn't have symptoms. Your first symptom is your last."
Carle said there is hope more tests will show a less-dangerous condition he called "athlete's heart," in which the heart's lining thickens and grows because of exercise.
He said it will be six to eight weeks before he knows the results, another three months, if the results are good, to see if the heart reduces. If it does, it could mean a renewed athletic career.
"But it's almost a false hope," Carle said. "It's less than a 1 percent chance, so unless there's a miracle, I don't see it changing."
One thing won't change.
"He will always know he got drafted in the National Hockey League," Koules said. "I almost get choked up. He worked too hard not to be drafted."
Goertzen said there was no debate at the draft table.
"It was a pick that ownership wanted to make," general manager Jay Feaster said.
"It was," Goertzen said, "the right thing to do."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]