1. Where in Buffalo did you grow up? Explain a little bit what or who got you interested in playing hockey and what your first hockey experiences were like.
I grew up in Amherst and growing up I had an older brother Austin and I always went to his hockey games and tournaments. That’s when I started getting interested. My Dad ran a novice program and because he ran it he got me in at a younger age to start skating in the novice program.
2. Who was the biggest influence on your hockey career while you were still in Buffalo?
My biggest influences were my parents and brother growing up and they still are to this date. They were always there to support me and gave up alot of their time to get me to early morning practices and long road trips and to tournaments.
3. What was your hockey career like in Buffalo growing up before playing with the Buffalo Regals U18 team?
Growing up I played everywhere in Buffalo. I played for both my age group and for the 1993 age group growing up. I played for the Buffalo Regals for two years to start my minor hockey and then the Amherst Knights for two years. I then played with the Wheatfield Blades for another few years and then the Buffalo Regals U16 and ended with the Buffalo Regals U18 program.
4. Although the Buffalo Regals program has always been successful it seems like more and more, the quality of the players coming from that program is increasing. Lately there has been a jump in the number of former Regals playing in the OHL, NCAA, USHL, NAHL, OJHL and many other high level leagues around the country. What do you think it is about the Buffalo Regals program that breeds this type of success?
Well there is a ton of hockey talent in Buffalo. With the Regals program, from the coaches to the organization itself, I think it is one of the best programs in all of New York. It has really grabbed people’s attention recently with all the players moving on. It has caused players from outside of the Buffalo area to come and play for the Regals program because they play in such a competitive league, against some of the best hockey programs from around the United States.
5. In 2010 you were drafted by the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League as well as the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. I’m sure you had many options open to you for the 2010-2011 hockey season. What options did you have and what ultimately led you to choose the OHL route and move to Brampton?
Well that year I tried out for the USNTDP (United States National Team Development Program) but was not offered one of the top defense spots. I hoping to play on that team but it changed things. I looked at my options and was deciding between the Junior Sabres program and the USHL. While I was making my decision I was told about a good opportunity in the OHL with The Brampton Battalion who had just lost their top four defenseman from the previous season. Brampton told me they had a spot to draft me in the 3rd round. After some thinking and talking with my family we thought it would be the best decision for my future to go to the OHL even though it meant I was giving up the opportunity of college scholarship to play NCAA Division 1 hockey in The United States.
6. What was the move like for you and your family? Can you describe what it was like to live away from home with a billet family at such a young age? How did your parents take it? Did they get to come see you often in Brampton given that you were only about two hours from Buffalo?
The move was obviously something that was tough for me and my parents with me moving away from home at such a young age. It was tough at first but I moved in with a great billet family in Brampton that took me in and really took care of me. They made moving away from home a lot easier for me. Brampton ended up being a great location because it was only an hour and a half drive from my home in Buffalo so it made it very easy for my family to come up and see me play every weekend. Many of the road games were close enough for them to come and see me play as well. Because it was so easy for my parents to come see me, it made the move easier for me because I could still see my family every weekend. I also had a good amount of chances to make the trip home, sometimes for just a day or two.
7. During your second season in Brampton you finished with 7 goals & 27 assists for 34 points. That summer you were taken in the 2nd Round, 40th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Describe what that day was like for you and your family. Did you have any idea how high you would be going? Were you aware Tampa Bay was interested in you or was it a surprise when they selected you?
It was an amazing day and it was almost too much excitement in one day for me to take it all in. I did have talks with Tampa throughout the season and they expressed interest in me. They told me at the time they had a lot of picks in the 2nd Round and they made it seem that they were interested in taking me with one of those picks. You don’t always know though when you’re at the draft because things change. Some players are taken and some are not so I was just waiting for my name to be called by any team. When my name was called in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning I could not have been more excited knowing that I was drafted by such a great organization. It was even better that I got to share that great moment with my entire family and some of my friends.
8. Last summer, for the second year in a row, you participated in the Lighting’s Prospect Development Camp. What was it like getting to see and play with some of the organization’s other prospects? What was it like learning from NHL coaches and trainers and what was the biggest thing you took away from your time at the Development Camp?
It was a great experience for me at the development camp just being there with the other prospects. It was good to get there and kind of get a glimpse of what an NHL camp was like with all the practices being run by NHL coaches. It really opened my eyes to all the great talent that was in the organization and also the wide range of player ages represented. Some guys were older and it really showed me how much hard work you have to put in to your summer training to build strength and speed to get to that next level.
9. Following the 2012-2013 season you were one of 40 players invited to the 2014 USA World Junior Championship Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. What was that experience like?
It was an honor just to get the call from them to let me know that I was selected to try out for the USA World Junior Team. It was a really cool experience going to Lake Placid for the first time and getting to play against other countries in the exhibition games. I didn’t end up getting the result I wanted after being cut from the team but there was a ton of talent there and just being put in that Top 40 tryout was an honor for me.
10. You are known mostly as being a big, sound defensive defenseman with a strong offensive upside as your numbers during your time with the Battalion have shown. Being such a high draft pick, the Lightning obviously have big expectations for you. What do you see as some of the strengths in your game? Also, what do you think you need to improve upon the most in your game to get you to the next level in your career?
I think after playing four years now in the OHL I have really grown as a player. I have always been a good two way defenseman but playing against such great talent in the OHL has allowed me to really work on my game a lot. I have tried to improve my all around game, but especially my defensive game and I think I have done that this year playing on the top defensive pairing and shutting down the top line of our opponents.
So Dylan, What are your plans for next year?
My plans are still up in the air right now but I’m hoping to move on from the OHL and to start playing with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.