Following in the footsteps of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert and Dallas Stars first-rounder Scott Glennie, Jayce Hawryluk is the Brandon Wheat Kings’ latest highly-touted NHL draft prospect to hail from Manitoba.
“I do feel fortunate (to stay in my home province),” says Hawryluk, who’s a native of Roblin, Man. “It’s nice to not have to move far away and get to be around family here. Some guys have to move far away from their homes, so I was happy when I got the chance to play in Brandon.”
Hawryluk came into his sophomore season feeling some pressure on his shoulders. Besides the obvious pressure that comes with a draft year, the 18-year-old knew the rebuilding Wheat Kings were counting on him to help lead the offense after his 43-point rookie season.
“I did feel a little bit of pressure,” says Hawryluk. “I knew we didn’t have a first-round pick or anything in our forward group, so guys like me would be expected to produce. But I have tried not to think about that and just play my game. Focus is key and I’ve worked on staying focused to just take one game at a time.”
Hawryluk without a doubt lived up to any preconceived expectations this season. He has solidified himself as a top-line centre by potting 24 goals and 64 points in 59 contests. In addition to his goal-scoring abilities, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has a peskiness in his game. He’s thrived at getting under the skin of opponents with physicality and chirping.
“I play hard and with that sometimes you get in some battles out there,” says Hawryluk, who is ranked 37th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service. “I try to play a bit bigger than I am like (Boston Bruins winger) Brad Marchand. So I like getting involved physically and battle hard in the dirty areas.”
Roughly midway through the year, Hawryluk found some 'extra motivation' in his game because of the CHL’s decision not to invite him to the Top Prospects Game.
“I didn’t let it bother me, but it did give me a little bit of extra motivation,” he says. “It’s one of those things that you want to get invited to and I thought I should have.”
Hawryluk really hit his stride in the Wheat Kings’ first-round sweep over the Regina Pats. He scored five goals and 10 points, including a hat trick in Game 3, throughout the four games.
“I have to credit my teammates,” says Hawryluk on his playoff production. “We have a great group that work hard out there and create scoring chances. I think we’ve all played well and with that the goals have come.”
The skilled sniper also credits Wheat Kings GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon for his post-season success.
“He’s a great hockey mind to have helping you. He’s hard on us, but that’s because he tries to get the best of us. He has pushed me in my two seasons to improve in all areas of my game. At times it feels like he expects a lot, but it’s because of that why he gets results from us.”
1. How would you describe yourself as a player?
“I’m a hard-working player that has some skill. I like to set up plays and create opportunities anyway I can. I also play hard in the defensive zone.”
2. Who’s your favourite NHL player?
“I like (Boston Bruins forward) Brad Marchand. He plays much bigger than he is and he’s good at agitating guys.”
3. Who’s your favourite NHL team?
“I like the Chicago Blackhawks. I’ve always been a fan of Patrick Kane, so he’s the main reason why I like them.”
4. What type of music do you like to listen to before a game?
“I’m up for anything really. I’m not that picky; I listen to whatever the guys like.”
5. What’s your favourite movie and TV show?
“I’m into Suits right now. I like the show just because it keeps me interested. And Friday Night Lights is pretty good (for a movie).”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen