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It seemed Ryan Pilon was one-step closer to embarking on a professional hockey career when the New York Islanders chose him 147th overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft. But roughly two months later, the 18-year-old blueliner has reportedly taken a step back from the game by leaving the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings for personal reasons.
"Ryan came to me this week and told me that at this time he has lost his passion to play hockey and will be leaving the team," Wheat Kings GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon said in the statement.
The timing of Pilon’s decision couldn’t be anymore peculiar. Not only was he recently drafted into The Show, but he’s also a part of an organization that is heavily favoured to win a championship this year.
That said, it appears the Duck Lake, Sk., native, who notched 11 goals and 52 points in 68 games last year, was contemplating leaving the game for quite some time.
“We had a number of discussions, but his final decision was that this was what he felt he needed to do,” McCrimmon added in the release.
Brandon acquired Pilon early in 2013 after he asked the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a change of scenery. He asked out of the organization at a time when they were struggling to win games and had a handful of disgruntled players in the dressing room. With hindsight vision, it seems Pilon’s trade request may have been an attempt to see if he could rekindle his love for the game.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder’s departure leaves the Wheat Kings in a tough situation, as they were counting on him to play a big role on their back end this year. But they might still have a loaded blueline depending on whether the Philadelphia Flyers keep 2015 first-round pick Ivan Provorov in the NHL and if the Calgary Flames send second-round pick Oliver Kylington, whom Brandon drafted 60th overall in the 2015 CHL import draft, to the WHL instead of the AHL. In addition, sophomore Kale Clague is expected to assert himself as an elite defender after showing glimpses of stardom last season.
It seems premature, however, to believe the WHL has seen the last of Pilon. It’s inevitable that some of his family members with hockey bloodlines such as former NHLer Rich Pilon will try to talk him into going back. Moreover, one can’t overlook the fact that he’s still a teenager. It’s hard for anyone that age to know what he/she wants in life.
At the end of the day, regardless of whether Pilon hangs up his skates or returns later on in the year, it is his decision to make. No one should be forced to pursue something they don’t love just because they have the right skill set.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen