When Dylan Willick showed up at Kamloops Blazers training camp in August 2009, he felt he had no chance of making the WHL teams roster.
He did, and now hes into his fourth season with the Blazers.
So how did he do it?
I had a big growing year (2009), I got a lot bigger . . . and I owe a lot to that, says Willick, a forward from Prince George who has been named an alternate captain of the Blazers. And my work ethic made a big difference. I was willing to outwork the guy next to me, and thats basically been my gameplan since.
Its that work ethic that not only got Willick onto the Blazers in the first place, its also what has made him one of their leaders.
He never would have imagined this when he showed up in Kamloops in 2009, fresh off a solid season with the major midget Cariboo Cougars.
If you had asked me going into camp if I would make it, Id have said Id probably be back playing midget hockey in Prince George, he says. It was a bit of a surprise for me -- but that happens sometimes, you go into tryouts and you never know whats going to happen.
Right from the start, Willick, who will turn 20 on Oct. 19, has been a great fit in Kamloops. In his first season, he had 29 points, including 12 goals.
He followed up by scoring 24 goals and assisting on 20 others in 2010-11, then counted 54 points, including 28 goals, last season.
He also is one of the teams best penalty killers and spends time on the power play.
On top of that, he has been incredibly durable -- through three seasons, he has only missed one game. On that occasion, Nov. 28, 2009, head coach Guy Charron benched three players after the Blazers had coughed up a four-goal lead in losing the night before.
Willick has picked up a lot of memories along the way.
In my very first [exhibition] game with a visor . . . I got a stick in the face . . . but I think I got an assist on the play, Willick says, with a laugh. [Brendan] Ranford scored, and I dont know how I got an assist -- I just turned to get off the ice and guys were celebrating a goal.
Not a great first experience in the visor, but there was a smile at the end of it all.
And then he had some more bad luck in his first season.
In my rookie year, three separate occasions I had stitches, he adds. Two sticks and one puck -- with the puck, I basically bit through my lower lip.
Of all the stories Willick has, hes hoping to pen an ending worthy of his effort in his final WHL season.
Not only is he coming off an excellent 2011-12 season, but the Blazers also were stellar, winning the B.C. Division for the first time in 10 years and then advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Willick is one of the key players the Blazers hope will take them even farther this season, but he plans to be the same hard-working guy hes always been.
Ive been on the team long enough -- yeah, Im a veteran and someone people look up to, and I take that into consideration, he says. But, personally, not much changes in what I do on or off the ice.