Dylan Garand, the Rangers 4th round pick in 2020 already has pro hockey experience as a teenager due to the crazy pandemic-affected season in North America.
I sat down with the young goalie from British Columbia to discuss his career so far, and what the future might bring.
Dylan Garand: Early career
Born in Victoria, BC, Dylan Garand grew up in Canuck territory. At a young age his first steps on the ice were not as a goalie; at least not yet. “I started playing hockey around age 4 or 5, I started as a defenceman but always wanted to play goalie, then I made the transition to full time goalie when I was 8 or 9,” Garand explains his childhood hockey adventure. He started with Juan de Fuca Grizzlies minor hockey in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, but by his 14th birthday he had made his way to Delta Hockey Academy just south of Vancouver.
In the 2017 WHL Bantam draft, he was picked in the 3rd round by the Kamloops Blazers and for the first time in his life he would move away from the area where he grew up. Kamloops is roughly 400 miles Northeast of his home.
“There wasn’t a specific challenge making the jump to the WHL,” Garand said. “The play is obviously a lot faster and the guys shoot the puck harder and quicker, so it just took a little bit to get used to.”
In his first full season in Kamloops, he played in 27 games, being the backup behind Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Dylan Ferguson. That same season (2018-19), he played for team Canada Red in the u17 World Hockey Challenge putting up a .930 save percentage in 4 games with his team finishing in 4th place.
The 2019-20 season opened with a loss in his first 3 games, but Garand shook off the rust with a 14-4 record including 3 shutouts. Despite his good season, Garand missed out on the u18 World Juniors with the tournament being cancelled due to the pandemic.
That disappointment came to an end later that year when the NHL Entry Draft occured in October. A day after the Rangers drafted Alexis Lafrenière 1st overall and Braden Schneider later in the first round, it was his time to celebrate. “I was at home watching the draft on my TV with my mom and my dad and we waited there watching until i got picked, he said. “It was a great feeling being drafted by the New York Rangers.”
Garand also revealed he spoke with the Rangers a few times leading up to the draft. Since the NHL combine was cancelled, these were all virtual interviews, but it still gave players a decent indication which teams are interested.
When the WHL season was postponed, several junior hockey players made their way to Hartford including Braden Schneider who Garand knows well. “I have played with Braden Schneider a few times so far at the top prospects game and with team Canada,” he noted of the Blueshirts top prospect. “He’s a really good player and a really good guy. I like his physicality and his offensive ability. I was super happy to get the chance to play pro hockey with him”.
Despite only playing 2 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack, it was the experience being around other pro hockey players, and being part of a professional organization that helped him tremendously. And while Will Cuylle, from the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL, was sticking around a little longer, Garand and Schneider made their way back to Western Canada with the WHL finally starting in March.
Back to juniors
For the 2021-22 season, Garand will stay in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers. The AHL made an exception for junior players under the age of 20 to be eligible for the AHL but only if they played a specific number of games which is a requirement Garand didn’t meet. But Garand is happy to go back for another year before making the permanent jump to pro hockey in the Rangers organization.
“I just look forward to making the transition to the next level and learning a lot and getting better as a goalie,” he continued, “like you said this is a great organization for developing goalies and I’m excited to be a part of it and get to work.”
His current favorite goalie is Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers. They share the same number, as does Carey Price who Garand idolized growing up. When asked about his strengths, Garand mentions his skating, his glove hand and the way he tracks the puck.
“I have just been training and trying to get better for the next season,” Garand explains about his preparation for the new year. “Ive really been using the extended off season by taking it as a positive and trying to get better.”
When Garand finishes this season, his NHL rights will expire in June. While I fully expect the Rangers to offer Garand an entry level contract, nothing is set in stone just yet. His years in Kamloops have certainly shaped his career and when asked about the player he learned from the most he mentions Jermaine Loewen, the 23-year old winger and former Blazers captain who now plays with Dylan Ferguson for the Henderson Silver Knights.
Time will tell how Garand’s career progresses but these are exciting times for the Rangers, the fanbase and its prospects. I personally look forward to seeing Garand join the Wolf Pack on a permanent basis in 2022 and work his way up to be the backup to Czar Igor.
PS: I want to thank Dylan Garand for sitting down with me and giving me the opportunity to share this story with our fanbase.
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