Alec Dillon’s future will not include the Victoria Grizzlies.
The local 18-year-old netminder will take his act to the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League.
News of the move broke on Tuesday as the recent draft pick of the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings opted to head south instead of remain in the B.C. Hockey League or join the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, who were also interested in his services.
Obviously, the Kings had a say in where Dillon — who still has a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., for the 2015-16 season — would play and that’s in Kearney, Nebraska, with the Storm.
“That’s the decision that I’m going with, playing down in Nebraska,” said Dillon who recently returned home from the Los Angeles area where he attended the Kings’ development camp for six days. “They suggested where they wanted me to play, but as much as it was their decision, it’s mine as well.”
Changes are happening quickly for Dillon, 18, who finished with a 21-7-2 record and 2.76 goals-against average in the regular season with the Grizzlies before being drafted in the fifth round by the Kings
“I put off [the decision]. I wanted to wait till after the draft, obviously,” he said. “I’m glad it’s now made. I feel good about it. I’ve been lucky enough to play in my home town and graduate from my own high school [Belmont Secondary] and I don’t think a lot of junior players can say that.
The Grizzlies have also lost defenceman Brandon Egli to the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in Iowa, in the same conference as Tri-City, and defensive prospect Brendan De Jong, who will join the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
“I met with Brad [Knight, the Grizzlies’ general manager and head coach]. There were no hard feelings there. I think I was open with him the entire time and he wished me the best,” said Dillon.
Knight, who knew the change could come after the NHL draft, spoke openly about the losses.
“Our job as adults, in hockey, is to support kids and not confuse them and make decisions that are already difficult, even more difficult,” said Knight.
“We would have liked to have seen Dillon come back, simply because he is such a quality kid. You don’t get kids like that very often, especially in that position [goal]. We see him as someone who left some unfinished business with us and we were hoping he would get a chance to go for the cup with us,” added Knight. “Again, when you’re drafted by an NHL team, they give you guidance. Ultimately, they’re the boss.”
Knight had already added goalie Sean Cleary, a six-foot-four, 220-pound netminder as he knew the possibility of losing Dillon was very real. Knight also still has 20-year-old local goalie Nic Renyard, who played along side Dillon.
The new Grizzlies’ GM recently added forwards Mitchell Barker and Brett Gruber (the latter is a goal-scorer from Wisconsin, having played in the Minnesota Elite U-18 league) and defenceman Meirs Moore of Duluth, Minnesota, who is also committed to R.P.I. for next season.
Knight still has room for four 20-year-olds and three imports.
“With Egli leaving, kids like Mitch Meek get more of an opportunity, and I have Tomba Huddlestan, who is quietly going to be one of the best defencemen in this league.”
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