For most teenagers, being roused from an early-morning slumber is considered a pretty rough way to start the day.
But for Dalton Sward, his Wednesday morning wake-up call was of the most welcome variety.
A representative from the Vancouver Canucks was on the phone, extending an invitation to the NHL squad’s prospect development camp, which opened today and runs through next Tuesday. The 18-year-old centre from Abbotsford was understandably thrilled.
“I wasn’t too disappointed to wake up early,” chuckled Sward, who plays his junior hockey for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. “It’s pretty exciting. I’m just going to go in there with an open mind, soak it all up and take whatever I can from the camp.”
The camp invite from the Canucks is a nice consolation prize for Sward, after he was passed over in the NHL entry draft last weekend.
He was considered a potential late-round selection after NHL Central Scouting ranked him No. 179 among North American skaters in its final rankings, but an injury-marred second half of the season may have hurt his stock.
Sward suffered a separated shoulder in January that kept him out of the Giants lineup for six weeks. Upon his return, he wore a shoulder brace that impeded his upper-body mobility. He ended up posting 11 goals and 11 assists in 54 games.
But while some youngsters would be crushed at going undrafted, Sward knows there are other routes to pro hockey. Case in point is fellow Abbotsford native Kellan Tochkin, who was passed over in the 2009 NHL draft but landed a contract from the Canucks after a strong showing at their development camp.
“I know Kellan from minor hockey, and I skate a bit with him in the summer,” Sward said. “So there’s a bunch of different ways you can make it. It’s not just about the draft. You’ve just got to work hard and show what you have, and hopefully somebody sees it along the way.”
Sward had a decorated minor hockey career in Abbotsford, captaining the bantam Tier 1 Hawks to a provincial title and a silver medal at the Western Canadian Championship in 2009. Later that spring, the Giants made him a first-round pick in the WHL bantam draft, 21st overall.
Sward has carved out a niche as a gritty third-line player with the Giants.
“I try to play physical, go to the hard areas, and get sort of greasy goals when they come,” he said. “I want to show them (the Canucks) what kind of player I am.”