A former Nelson Junior Leafs standout found himself running through drills with the best hockey players in the country earlier this week.
On Monday, the brightest stars in the NHL were in Calgary to take part in the Canada’s Olympic orientation camp. When Joe Thornton was unable to make it to the camp due to a family matter, Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock called in an emergency substitute.
“[It’s] like a dream come true, kind of,” Dylan Walchuk told nhl.com. “I don’t know, it was sweet just seeing those guys on TV all the time and getting to play with them. They’re all good guys. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Walchuk played for the Junior Leafs during their championshp season of 2008-09 when he was just 16. The McBride, BC native then went onto play for two seasons with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL where he was an important part of two league championships. Walchuk briefly attended North Michigan University, but cut short his NCAA career and finished his junior career in Spokane with the WHL’s Chiefs.
Walchuk was getting ready to start his season with the University of Calgary Dinos hockey team when the 5’9” forward caught the eye of Babcock. Team Canada coaches were running the Dinos through a practice session on Sunday and Walchuk stood out. “We put them through the paces and that kid was the best kid on the ice by a million miles, so when Thornton couldn’t come in, that’s how life should be is when you do good things, good things happen,” Babcock told nhl.com. “He did a good job. He didn’t have to. He did a good job, was excellent out there. We phoned him last night and said, ‘Do you want to come?’ Great.”
Walchuk told nhl.com that it was a surreal opportunity when he walked into the dressing room on Monday.
“Actually I walked in the dressing room and I looked at the two stalls beside me and it was Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand,” Walchuk said. “That was pretty exciting for me when I looked at that. I couldn’t sit beside two better guys, I don’t think.”
Understandably nervous, Walchuk didn’t say much.
“I talked to Sid a little bit but other than that, not really,” he said.
“It was fun to see him out here,” Hall told nhl.com. “I’m sure he’s having a blast being around all these guys. He did pretty good. He didn’t mess up any drills, which is more than I can say if I was in his shoes. … I’m sure he’s making all his buddies jealous. He did a good job. He was on my line, and we didn’t get into any trouble from the coach, so it was good.”