Junior forward Tanner Laczynski looks for a pass during the second period of Ohio State’s hockey game vs. Michigan on Jan. 11. Ohio State lost 2-1. Credit: Nick Hudak | For The Lantern

Tanner Laczynski has always eyed a path to the NHL.

A native of Shorewood, Illinois, he laced up his skates and began playing hockey at 3 years old, setting the groundwork for his potential professional career.

“My mom took me out to an open skate, one of the local rinks, and kind of just got the hang of it quicker than walking,” Laczynski said.

His skating eventually became less of a hobby and more of a serious venture as he grew older. He eventually found success playing for the Joliet Jaguars before moving on to play with Chicago Fury and Chicago Mission. After finishing his career in AAA hockey, he became a member of Chicago Steel and the Lincoln Stars before finally joining Ohio State.

Now a junior forward at Ohio State, Laczynski will have the opportunity to live out that professional dream, having been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2016 NHL Draft in the sixth round, No. 169 overall.

Laczynski has been a key asset for the Ohio State men’s hockey team. He was voted most valuable freshman 2016-17, was in the running for this year’s Hobey Baker award and has netted more than 100 points in his collegiate career.

This season, Laczynski believes the bond between him and his teammates is stronger at Ohio State than any of the previous teams he’s been with.

“I think just having the same guys around for almost four years is what really brings us close and be able to do things on the ice,” Laczynski said. “We’re all in it for the same reason, we all love each other and truly are just a family in the locker room.”

Senior defenseman Sasha Larocque said Laczynski is a highly competitive player for the Buckeyes, so competitive in fact that “it’s frightening at times.”

“To get a puck off him you’ve got to pretty well try and kill him, and if you do get it off him he’s going to come right back at you,” Larocque said.

According to senior forward John Wiitala, Laczynski’s competitive nature helps the entire team become better.

“He’s hard to play against every day in practice,” Wiitala said. “He makes everybody better every day in practice. He’s that big strong kid that, you go one-on-one against every day, is going to make you better. That’s where he really excels.”

While hard work and talent might have gotten him to this level, Laczynski ascribes a lot of his collegiate success to the coaching staff at Ohio State, for he said he’s hit bumps “here-and-there.”

“Getting sick freshman year and being injured this year, but at the same time [the coaches] have been really good at getting me back in the lineup and getting me going,” Laczynski said.

Laczynski has missed 10 games due to a pair of injuries this season. Despite this, he has found his way into the lineup whenever possible this season, racking up 10 goals and 20 assists this year. All in all, he has played over 100 games in his time with the Buckeyes, regardless of needing time to spend recovering.

“You just have to know that in time it’s going to heal,” Laczynski said. “You’ve just got to work that much harder to get back into the lineup and get back on the ice.”

In spite of having already been drafted by the Flyers, Laczynski is looking to focus on what he has now rather than looking toward his future at the pro level.

“Obviously it’s a dream one day to play in the NHL,” he said. “But right now, I can’t worry too much about ‘What’s next year look like? What’s two years look like? What is my future?’; I try to just live in the moment.”