Island goalie Garand selected by Rangers in NHL draft

Dylan Garand is going from his summer job of packing regular apples, and a whole bunch of other stuff at the front checkout of the Langford Costco, to the Big Apple. Garand was selected 103rd overall in the fourth round Wednesday by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL draft. He was the second Canadian goaltender selected and eighth goalie overall.

“It’s exciting going to a storied franchise that has such a bright future,” said Garand.

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That future includes forward Alexis Lafreniere, selected by the Rangers as the top overall pick. Garand met Lafreniere during the top prospects game in January.

“I’m super excited that we will be part of the same organization. He’s a great guy with a good sense of humour,” said Garand.

The first-rounders, and their families, got the TV exposure on the first day of the draft Tuesday. But being selected is no less meaningful on the second day for the players taken in the lower rounds.

“There were no cameras but my family was excited and I hugged my dad [Loren] and mom [Gina],” said Garand.

“Then my phone started blowing up with friends calling.”

The Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association product backstopped the Kamloops Blazers to their first B.C. Division championship in eight years before the remainder of the Western Hockey League regular season, and entirety of the playoffs, were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Garand, who turned 18 in June, recorded a 2.21 goals-against average and .921 save percentage with four shutouts in going 28-10-3 for the Blazers.

“It was disappointing not to get to play in the playoffs, especially with the calibre of team we had [Blazers forward Connor Zary went 24th overall in the first round to the Calgary Flames]. But so much time has passed that I’m over it now,” said Garand.

That was followed in July by Garand, along with former Victoria Grizzlies forward Alex Newhook, taking part in Hockey Canada’s first-ever virtual summer development camp ahead of a world junior championship. It consisted of Zoom seminars. The 2021 IIHF world junior tournament, tentatively set to begin Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer, is being planned to go ahead without fans. Garand was among five goaltenders selected for the virtual Canada junior camp, including Taylor Gauthier of the Prince George Cougars and Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL and Tristan Lennox of Saginaw and Brett Brochu from London of the Ontario Hockey League.

With the Canada junior camp virtual, and the WHL not set to begin the regular season until Dec. 4, players have had to be resourceful on an individual basis. Garand’s summer job as front checkout grocery clerk was primarily to get enough money to buy one of those elaborate stationary bikes that are the trend. That was supplemented during this unusual time by other forms of dryland training and on-ice sessions with a group of players at the Panorama Recreation Centre. Garand realizes this is anything but a normal situation. After all, when has the NHL ever before held the draft in October? But he still has a job to do and is doing it the best he can.

“So much is out of our control. But I am going to keep working hard and learn as much as I can,” said the six-foot-one Island product.

Garand also works hard and learns a lot in the classroom, and was named WHL scholastic player of the year, with a 96.5 percent grade average in Grade 12.

Nanaimo Clippers captain Kyler Kovich, committed to Cornell of the NCAA, was the 168th-ranked North American skater for the draft but was not selected through the seven rounds.

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