We're headed out to Kamloops, British Columbia for the latest installment of the series with underrated and overachieving forward Dylan Willick.
The October, 1992 birthdate is natural center who split time this season at all three forward positions, which gets to the heart of the kind of kid he is: very coachable and will do anything asked of him for the good of the team.
Although only about 5-10 and 191 pounds, Willick is a good skater who is strong on his skates and elusive. He's a high-energy kind of guy who is tenacious and very effective on special teams, especially on the PK, where he uses his intelligence and hustle to block shots and break up plays. He's a gritty, passionate gamer who is flying under the radar, but has the look of a player NHL teams could take an interest in despite a lack of fanfare in prospect circles.
In just his second season in the WHL, the Hinton, Alberta-born but Prince George, B.C.-raised Willick was given an alternate captain's "A" and scored 24 goals and 44 points in 72 games.
Although a 2nd/3rd line player for the Blazers, Willick scored at a point-per-game pace for seven games while two key players, Brendan Ranford and Chase Schaber were suspended. In the dying moments of the Blazers' season as they tried to make the WHL playoffs with a late push, Willick suffered an ankle injury and wasn't as effective as a result. He did finish the season with 20 points in his final 18 games, however.
We spoke to longtime Blazers broadcaster Rick Wile of Radio CHNL about Willick, and he sees some real potential in the 18-year-old.
"He's honest and hardworking," Wile told B2011DW. "He's a guy you know what you're getting in. He can skate, plays physical and when he comes in off the left wing or right wing, he's got the puck and can burn the 'D' with speed and he's got a good shot."
Willick is one of those guys who keeps his feet moving and initiates contact even if he lacks the ideal size to be a legitimate banger.
Hockey sense, however, is one of his key assets and could be what propels him to a spot at the highest level one day.
"Penalty killing is his forte," said Wile. "He's at his best on the PK because he's fearless in his shot blocking and just with the way he thinks the game so well. Whoever gets him is going to get a gem; he's a kid who has all kinds of will, desire, passion and is so smart."
Granted, you would expect to hear an endorsement of Willick out of Kamloops, but Wile is a veteran hockey man who's candid in his assessments. Based on what we're hearing about the Blazer prospect, he looks like a solid bet to get plucked at the NHL draft in June. Where he'll go is anyone's guess, but when scouts don't have much to say about a player, it usually is a sign that their club is hoping to get a nice value and even steal.
He may not a household name for the 2011 draft, but in our view, Dylan Willick is a guy you should know.
You can check out Dylan Willick's guest blog he did for the Pipeline Show this season here. With Pt. 2 here. And Pt. 3.