PHILADELPHIA— One year ago Daniel Walcott was sitting on his couch at home watching the NHL Draft and dreaming about the possibility that one day that could be him hearing his name called.
At the time, however, reality dictated that the dream was a stretch. The defenceman was playing for Lindenwood University close to St. Louis in the American Collegiate Hockey Association – a small college loop unaffiliated with the NCAA. He was playing against older, more mature players, but his talents went largely unnoticed.
“Playing there last year I watched the draft from my house,” said Walcott. “I thought maybe one day – next year is my last year. I thought maybe, possibly something would work out if I worked really hard and got seen.”
Sometimes all you need is one person to see you and believe in your talents. On Saturday, the New York Rangers called his name from the draft floor in the fifth round.
“Fortunately I was seen and the dream came true,” he said sporting a wide smile.
The native of Ile Perrot, Que., managed to earn a spot on the Quebec Major Junior League’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The team had lost two of their most reliable defencemen and was looking for a steady player to fill the role on the blue line. It was the break the 19-year-old had been hoping would materialize. It was just the next step in what had already been a journey filled with twists and turns.
“That was the main thing that got me drafted by the Rangers today,” said Walcott. “I’m thankful for that and I’ll just keep working harder.”
As a rookie in the QMJHL, the 5-foot-11, 168-pound defenceman scored 10 goals and added 29 assists in 67 games. He believes he’ll be able to translate his style of play to help the Rangers.
“I’m a two-way defenceman,” said Walcott. “I bring a lot of offence and I can play defence too and shutdown top lines. I can be in-your-face and physical. I give my heart out every game – a lot of character.”
He grew up playing football, so he said he enjoys the rougher aspects of the game. There’s a perception at times in CHL that the Quebec league is less physical, though Walcott says he doesn’t believe that to be true based on what he saw with the Armada last season.
“The physicality was there a lot,” he said. “It felt like every other game you would be in an all-out physical game. You’d be bruised up, but that’s the type of game I love - just to be physical, like playing football back in my past – I love the physicality.”
Getting used to the QMJHL schedule was one of the more difficult things for Walcott. Having played high school hockey prior to the ACHA, he had never played anything close the number of games required in the CHL.
“I had never played more than 30-something games,” said Walcott. “So it was really crazy.”
This past hockey season has been such a whirlwind for him that one wonders whether or not he could have imagined this a year ago.
“No,” said Walcott, shaking his head. “It was hard to imagine, but you know, you have to have confidence in yourself. If you don’t have confidence in yourself it’s hard to move on. I had confidence in myself and my parents had confidence in me.
“I knew I had the abilities to be able to do it, but it was just a matter of being seen – and I was fortunate to be seen and drafted this year.”
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