While most Western Hockey League players were rendered inactive by the pandemic shutdown, Dylan Garand of Langford won a world junior championship silver medal with Canada and made his pro debut with the Hartford WolfPack of the AHL.
“Being able to play the last four months has definitely been huge for me. I’ve been lucky, for sure,” he said.
But there are a lot of adages about having to be good to be lucky and about making your own luck. The Island-produced goaltender is all that. Garand has backstopped the Kamloops Blazers (2-0) in their opening two wins and will draw the start again tonight against his hometown and winless Victoria Royals (0-3) in WHL action in Kelowna.
Garand, a fourth-round NHL draft pick of the New York Rangers, recorded a 3.68 goals-against average and .839 save percentage in two pro games for affiliate Hartford.
“It gave me confidence I can play at the next level and really helped me, and I bring a lot of lessons learned back to junior hockey,” said the 18-year-old, projected the likely Team Canada starter in the crease for the 2022 world juniors in Edmonton and Red Deer.
“The shots are off the sticks so much more quickly in the pros.”
This was supposed to be Kamloops’ season, with the likes of Garand, and first-round NHL draft pick and fellow 2021 Canada world junior silver-medallist Connor Zary at forward. But there is no WHL championship or Memorial Cup to aim for, so the Blazers must be content with securing the B.C. Division title over an abbreviated 24-game season played in the hub communities of Kamloops and Kelowna.
Several teams are using the season to give experience to future prospects with Victoria and Kelowna featuring 12 rookies each and Prince George 10. That looks to leave the path clear to the top for veteran-laden Kamloops, with perhaps a challenge from the Vancouver Giants.
“We’ve got a lot more returning guys — but some youth, too — so it’s a good balance for us to push with in our goal of the division title,” said Garand.