In a dressing room at Island Centre of Excellence (ICE) Hockey and Fitness in Colwood, Alec Dillon stops to reminisce a little.
Still in his bulky goalie gear after he and longtime buddy Dysin Mayo were drilled by their former bantam rep coach Trent Brandvold, Dillon thinks about he and Mayo’s earliest hockey days.
“Dysin sent me a picture of the first year we played together,” he said. “Now that we’re here, it’s still weird cause we honestly were the worst players on our initiation team. We were awful, we couldn’t get to the blueline and back, so this is pretty special.”
Going from stumbling around the ice together to both being selected in the fifth round of the recent National Hockey League entry draft definitely represents a quantum leap, albeit one that wasn’t made without a lot of work and ice time along the way.
Brandvold coached both players in bantam at Juan de Fuca and won a pair of provincial titles with those teams. Looking back, he saw a lot of dedication to the game in Mayo, whose attendance at the Pursuit of Excellence camp in Kelowna geared him for play with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
He recalls Dillon winning some games outright for the Grizzlies in his second year of bantam.
“He still competes really hard,” Brandvold said. “And his size now (six-foot-four) is a huge factor. But he’s able to keep the puck out of the net and that’s what NHL teams are looking for.”
After taking a month or so off to soak in a Memorial Cup win and rest up from a season-long WHL workload, Mayo said he needed to hit the ice again.
The 18-year-old defenceman, drafted 133rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes, had this week’s prospect development camp in Glendale, Ariz. to think about. “Draft picks from the last three years will be there and some invites. It’ll be tough working out on the ice each day. You gotta be in shape for that,” he said.
Mayo and Dillon, chosen 150th overall by Los Angeles and anticipating this week Kings’ development camp outside L.A., called on Brandvold to help them get ready.
“We’ve been working on lots of footwork drills, lots of skating, lots of shooting to try and get back into it,” said Mayo, who plans to follow the week-long camp by hitting the gym to help put on some weight and muscle.
Getting drafted, he said, was a “surreal” experience that he enjoyed with friends and family back home on the West Shore. In general, he added, the past season was like a dream.
“I don’t know if it’s totally sunken in yet. We won every thing we could this year, so it’s quite a feeling, pretty unreal.”
While former Grizzlies junior Dillon’s WHL rights are owned by the Oil Kings, he has a scholarship to attend and play college hockey for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York next season.
“I’m committed to RPI and I’m loyal to them, but if I go down to L.A., they’re obviously going to tell me where they want to see me playing in the next couple of years,” he said.
Knowing strict NCAA rules prohibit players from playing even one game of major junior hockey and maintaining their college eligibility, Dillon said he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.
“You almost wish you could give (the WHL) a test drive, but that’s not how they roll, I guess. That’s fine, I have to make a decision then live with it.”