Being overlooked in the draft turned out to be only a minor inconvenience for Duncan-born and Nanaimo-raised Dylan Coghlan, as he made his NHL debut for the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.
“I was disappointed not to hear my name called for the draft, but I put it behind me and just focused on getting better,” Coghlan told the Times Colonist, following his snub in 2018.
But the Islander showed enough ability post-draft to sign as a free agent with the Golden Knights.
“It’s all about progression and Dylan has had a consistent upward trajectory,” said Dan Price, who worked with Coghlan when Price was assistant coach with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. When Price moved up as assistant coach, and now head coach of the Victoria Royals, he saw Coghlan rip the Royals time and again with his elusive moves and devastating shot. That was much to the delight of the Coghlan family and friends cheering section that would be in Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre when the Americans visited.
“Dylan is a very agile and creative player who can get a shot off quickly,” Price said.
Coghlan’s mobile, offensive-oriented style is reminiscent of fellow Island blueliner and NHL veteran Tyson Barrie, although Coghlan is taller at six-foot-two.
After two seasons as the leading scorer among defencemen for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, Coghlan got the call-up to the big league with Golden Knights blueliner Alex Pietrangelo out due to COVID protocol.
With Pietrangelo projected as a top-pairing Canada defenceman for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, those are big skates for Coghlan to fill. But the Golden Knights believe the Harbour City product, who turns 23 this month, is ready.
“[Coghlan] has all the attributes to be an NHL defenceman,” Las Vegas assistant coach Steve Spott said during a news conference this week. “He’s big, he can skate, he’s strong. He’s got an NHL shot and an NHL release. He has great offensive instincts.
“The challenge for him is going to be the defensive side of the game — to make sure he can be trusted every time he is on the ice. He’s excited about the challenge.”
Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer was just as effusive in his praise for the Island prospect’s upside: “It’s an opportunity. We really got an appreciation of [Coghlan’s] toolbox and all of the things he can bring to the table.”
In his pre-game media conference on Friday, DeBoer said he knows Coghlan was being thrown into the fire.
“In a regular year, we would have got a training camp and a bunch of exhibition games to really give him a good look at this level,” DeBoer said.
“Unfortunately for him, we didn’t have that luxury, so he’s jumping in mid-season.”
But Coghlan has defied expectations his entire career. “He’s ready. I’m very confident in his abilities,” DeBoer said.