Tuesday, June 21, 2011
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
If you were only one inch tall, wrote the poet Shel Silverstein, you’d ride a worm to school.
And if Dylan Willick was only one inch taller, he might be riding a lot higher in the buildup to this weekend’s NHL draft.
Willick, who is scheduled to turn 19 on Oct. 19, has played two seasons with the Kamloops Blazers. After a 29-point freshman season, he recorded 44 points, including 24 goals, in 72 games in 2010-11, a season in which he was the WHL team’s most reliable and most consistent player.
“I felt like I didn’t have any regrets. I felt I did everything that I could,” he says.
Of course, he “wanted more team success,” but without that he had to look at his individual accomplishments.
“I’d rather have team success and I wish the team had gone further,” he says, “but on a personal level I think I did everything I had hoped for.”
We will find out Saturday if the scouts agree with him, although some of the pundits obviously do.
“He is one of those players that coaches can count on,” notes the gang at hockeyprospect.com. “He is great on the penalty kill and plays smart hockey. He has very good speed and is a hard working forward.”
However, in a sport in which professional teams value size the way the Kardashian girls treasure diamonds, Willick measures out at 5-foot-11.
When it is suggested that maybe, just maybe, he is 5-11 and about 7/8 of an inch if he stretches it, he laughs and says: “Yeah, something like that.”
These days, he weighs 193 pounds, which is about where he finished last season. He almost certainly will add 10 or 12 pounds as he continues to fill out over the next two or three years.
But, sheesh, if he were only 6-foot-0 . . . because he is a player with a high hockey IQ, with a sound understanding of positioning, systems and defensive responsibilities. He also is a player who can play all three forward positions, although he appears most comfortable at left wing.
As hockeyprospect.com notes: “Willick is a player with a good knowledge of what is expected of him.”
Willick also is intelligent enough to realize that his defensive game is solid, but that he needs to work on his offensive play. So when training camp arrives in August, he says he’ll be working on being more creative.
“I need to work on doing more in the offensive zone when I have the puck,” he says. “I want to be able to create now. I don’t think I’m going to lose my hockey knowledge that I have . . . it’s a matter of being able to do something more with it.”
To do that, he wants to improve his quickness and get more explosiveness into his stride.
With that in mind, he has been working out under the watchful eyes of Dev Mitra, the Blazers’ strength and conditioning guru. And the offseason workouts have been made more productive by a move.
His family — parents Melissa and Blaine, along with sisters Devin, 17, and Dakota, 13 — have moved from Prince George to Kamloops.
The family chose to relocate at least in part because of hockey but also, Willick says, because “we all have fallen in love with the city. . . . My mom really likes the city.”
Blaine works in Fort McMurray, Alta., so, as his son puts it, “it doesn’t really matter where we live; he has to go back and forth, regardless.”
What Dylan expects this move to do is create a larger comfort zone for him.
“This way,” he explains, “I get to train with Dev. That helps a lot.”
In the past, he says, “I used his program but I just did it on my own. Now I’ve got somebody there who is pushing me to go a bit harder than normal. I find that I use my time a bit more wisely this way.”
These days, Willick works out six days a week. He’s working with weights for three days.
“The other three days it’s cardio, quickness, Plyometrics . . . so it’s a power-type training,” he says.
To date, he adds, his weight-lifting production has gone up, while his running times have gone down. So everything appears to be on schedule.
He will take time out from that training to pay attention to this weekend’s draft, which is to be held in the home arena of the Minnesota Wild. The first round is scheduled for Friday evening, with the remaining six rounds on Saturday.
When NHL Central Scouting issued its final rankings, Willick was at No. 164 among North American skaters. Two of his teammates also were ranked — centre Colin Smith at No. 96 and defenceman Tyler Hansen 131st.
Although he won’t be attending the draft, Willick admits that he is excited.
“I am, actually,” he says. “It’s a pretty exciting time and there is going to be a lot of friends and family with me. Hopefully, they’ll be able to share some good news with me.”
That just might be the case.
As hockeyprospect.com puts it: “He might be looked back on as a steal in this draft.”
Taking Note on Twitter