After a standout bantam year where Skylar Pacheco competed on the under-17 provincial team in the BC Cup, the five-foot-10, 178-pounder was told by a midget coach in his hometown of Kitimat he was too small to compete and cut him in training camp.
Fast forward to the present day and Pacheco, now 19, is in his third season manning the blueline for the Prince George Spruce Kings in the B.C. Hockey League.
Pacheco already has two goals and an assist on an offensively challenged Spruce Kings (2-3-0-1) team this season. In his BCHL career, Pacheco has five goals and 42 points in 114 games. Last season, he was an Ironman for the Spruce Kings, playing in all 56 regular season games and five playoff games.
He said the Spruce Kings brought him along slowly, while he absorbed a lot from his older teammates and the coaching staff. Now he's ready to contribute more to the success of the team. One thing that helps is the added weight Pacheco put on in the summer.
"I'm stronger on the ice and I feel a little faster," said Pacheco.
He credits training with former Spruce Kings teammate Jujhar Khaira during the summer in Surrey with helping him bulk up. Pacheco also learned about the business side of hockey. When the NHL Edmonton Oilers were courting Kharia to sign with them, Pacheco had a front row seat for the negotiation.
Pacheco hasn't negotiated with any NHL teams, but his experience in watching the process Khaira went through could help him in his quest to get a good scholarship for himself at a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) school.
"I thought I was close last year with one school but it didn't work out," said Pacheco.
Pacheco said he chatted with a couple of NCAA representatives at the BCHL Showcase event in Chilliwack, but hasn't committed to anything.
If perseverance is a quality NCAA schools look for, Pacheco would be a good candidate for them.
After the midget coach in Kitimat cut him, Pacheco packed his bags and headed to Kelowna to attend the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy.
"My coach was great there I learned a lot of skill stuff from him like puck-handling and stick-handling and a lot of positional play, where to be and where to have your stick," said Pacheco.
At 16, Pacheco played junior B hockey in Creston and joined the Spruce Kings the next season.
Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas said the added bulk Pacheco put on allows him to win more battles on the ice this season.
"He's another one that's really good on the power play, gets his shots through and defensively he's much better," said Dupas. "He's going to continue to get better and we're expecting big things out of Skylar here."
Pacheco and new Spruce King Christian Weidauer have been paired on the blueline this season.
"They're both so smart and they both move the puck very well," said Dupas. "They use each other very well so the pucks don't stay in our zone long."
Pacheco and the Spruce Kings are on the road this weekend for games against Mainland division rivals, Coquitlam Express (Friday, 7 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m.) and the Chilliwack Chiefs (Saturday, 7 p.m.).