By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Dylan Willick didn’t really need added motivation for the next WHL season.
But the Kamloops Blazers forward got a healthy dose of it Saturday when he wasn’t among the 210 players selected during the NHL’s 2011 draft in St. Paul, Minn.
“Blank . . . almost,” Willick said Saturday in describing how he felt about not being picked by one of the NHL’s 30 teams. “But, at the same time, there is still the possibility of free-agent camps and whatnot, so I am still optimistic about it all.”
Willick went into the weekend ranked by NHL Central Scouting as No. 164 among North American skaters eligible for the draft. He was joined on the list by two teammates, centre Colin Smith and defenceman Tyler Hansen, at Nos. 96 and 131, respectively.
But, for the second time in the franchise’s 30-season history in Kamloops, the Blazers were blanked. The only other time they haven’t had even one player drafted was 2008.
In 2010, defenceman Austin Madaisky was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fifth round and left-winger Brendan Ranford went to the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 7.
After the 2010 draft, Blazers defenceman Josh Caron, a free agent, signed an NHL contract with the Minnesota Wild.
And it wasn’t long after the conclusion of Saturday’s seventh round when Willick’s agent, Jerrold Colton of CS Sports Management, received a call from the Wild. Minnesota was offering Willick a spot at a development camp that opens July 11.
“I didn’t have to wait long to find out I at least had somewhere to go, so I walk away from it still happy,” said Willick, adding that he will “probably attend.”
Should that happen, he would travel to the camp with Caron.
“I would be with someone who has been there . . . to help me through it a bit,” Willick said.
He will, however, wait to see if Colton hears from any other NHL teams.
Willick, now 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, knew going into the draft that he might be in tough. But after a 44-point sophomore season for a non-playoff team, he felt his hockey intelligence and defensive acumen might see him through. It just didn’t happen, though.
“All these reports said that my size was going to be my big factor,” said Willick, who took in the draft via the Internet. “I’m looking at the draft and there are these guys who are 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds and all these guys who are a lot smaller than I am, and I’m sitting there going ‘Really. . . . I’ve been told I’m too small and you guys are drafting guys half my size.’
“Other than that . . .”
But, he concluded, “It’s a tough world. It’s hard to tell what everyone really wants and what they’re really thinking.”
JUST NOTES: Next up is the CHL import draft on Wednesday. The Blazers, with neither Slovakian C Dalibor Bortnak nor German LW Bernhard Keil returning, are eligible to make two selections. The Blazers’ first pick is 18th overall. . . . The OHL’s Barrie Colts are scheduled to make the first pick at 6 a.m. PT. . . . The WHL had 33 players selected in the NHL draft, with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Portland Winterhawks and Saskatoon Blades each having four players taken. Like the Blazers, the Calgary Hitmen, Everett Silvertips, Prince George Cougars, Regina Pats and Victoria Royals were blanked. . . . Only three B.C. Division players were drafted — the Edmonton Oilers took D David Musil (Vancouver Giants) to open the second round; the Detroit Red Wings grabbed F Marek Tvrdon (Vancouver) in the fourth round; and, the New York Rangers took F Shane McColgan (Kelowna Rockets) in the fifth round. Tvrdon scored six goals in 12 games before his season was ended by a shoulder injury.
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