Dylan Schives wanted to see British Columbia with his own eyes and the Prince George Spruce Kings are more than willing to provide him that opportunity.
They jumped at the chance to sign the 20-year-old defenceman for his final season of junior eligibility to build on a resume that includes 128 games of experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Schives, a native of Tilbury, Ont., near Windsor, is a good friend of former Spruce King Lucas Vanroboys, a member of the Kings team that won the Fred Page Cup BCHL title and came a couple goals shy of capturing the national junior A championship in 2019. Vanroboys recommended that Schives reach out to the Spruce Kings and the team signed him in August.
“Obviously I’d heard about the BCHL and I heard of the Spruce Kings through Lucas but I never thought of it until I had this opportunity,” said Schives. “I’m really enjoying it so far, it’s a great group of guys with lots of talent and speed. Obviously there’s a lot of retuning guys, which is nice, we want some older guys with experience that bring everything to the table.
“I was really excited about B.C., I actually drove the whole way here and saw family along the way and everything is just so beautiful.”
Listed at five-foot-11, 190 pounds, Schives loves to join offensive rushes and has the skills to do that effectively. He made his BCHL debut Friday night in Merritt and collected his first point 10 minutes into the game when he set John Herrington’s power-play goal that tied the game. The Kings went on to beat the Centennials 8-1. Head coach Alex Evin plans to utilize Schives often on the left point on the Kings’ top power-play unit.
“We got to know Dylan over the summer in Zoom calls and he struck me as a very mature person and he’s committed to coming to a different league and coming all the way out west and that shows the commitment he has,” said Evin. “I was very impressed with him in camp. He’s a d-man that definitely can skate very well and defend very well and he’s going to contribute to our team hopefully immensely.
“He’s coming from a very good league and it looks like he’s had great coaching and for him it’s maybe a little more opportunity as a 20-year-old. It’s tough for those guys, they have limited roster spots at that age and I hope PG can be a real good home for him. He’s a great skater, he’s smart, he plays hard. It kind of brings us something for our back end we were missing.”
Schives played 2 1/2 seasons with the Quebec Remparts and was traded last season to the Baie Comeau Drakkar. His coach in Quebec was former NHL goalie Patrick Roy.
“He’s definitely a winner coach, I’ll tell you that,” said Schives. “He really stresses the small things, which is great. It teaches you to be a better player and obviously you grow from it. It was always a strict team and that’s why he has the reputation he has, it’s a great way for a coach.
“We had a young team when I was there but that team is going to be on the run for the Memorial Cup this year. They have a really good squad and I keep in touch with a lot of those guys, they’re looking real strong.”
In a 2020-21 season that had several starts and stops because of the pandemic, Schives played 20 games for Baie-Comeau, another young team, but he says he received plenty of icetime and was used in all situations and he’ll draw on that experience as one of the leaders on the blueline for the Spruce Kings.
Schives played in the QMJHL bubble based in Quebec City last season and it a strange experience without fans in the building.
“It was definitely tougher, no fans makes a difference, and the bubble made it tough too, being in hotel for all those days, but we were just fortunate that we could play,” said Schives. “We had 20-something games plus playoffs. We ended up losing to a strong team, Val d’Or, in the first round but just the experience of that was huge.”
Schives took a hard head shot face-first into the boards from West Kelowna Warriors forward Riley Sharun with 41 seconds left in Saturday’s game, a 5-3 loss to the Warriors. Sharun was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct and on Sunday the league handed him a two-game suspension. Evin said Schives is not expected to be miss any time with his injury.
He and the Kings will finally get to see, hear and feel the vibe of a home crowd at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena this weekend when they host the Centennials in a doubleheader Friday and Saturday.
“For players there’s nothing better than when the fans are on your side and there’s all that noise and when I come to this arena I’m so excited to play in it,” he said. “I can’t wait for it.”