Every player will always remember their rookie season. It’s forever etched in their hockey playing soul. Good, bad or ugly, so much is learned in year one. The experience is invaluable. You can tell a lot about a player’s skill, character and resiliency watching them cut their teeth during their rookie campaign.
The highs and lows are all part of the process. There’s no question the last eight months has been extremely difficult for young players stepping into the QMJHL.
Baptism by fire, thrown to the wolves, you can call it what you want, either way it’s been a whirlwind. Dyllan Gill has experienced first-hand what that’s been like stepping into the Q as a first-round pick. The incredibly mature and grounded kid from Riverview, New Brunswick wouldn’t change the experience for the world.
1st Round Pressure
First round pressure and attention coupled with extremely high expectations hasn’t seemed to phase Dyllan Gill’s progression thus far in the QMJHL. The highly skilled versatile defender is trying to take everything stride in his season with the Rouyn Noranda Huskies. .
“Getting drafted in general was just an amazing experience,” Gill said.
“Being drafted in the first round just made that experience feel even more surreal,” he added.
“I had no idea Rouyn was going to take me and as the draft went on and the final pick came up, we weren’t really expecting anything, explained Gill who surrounded by family and friends at his home in June. A couple moments later, I got a call from Mario Pouliot welcoming me to the organization.”
“I was talking to Mario, when Mr. Courteau announced my selection.”
“We had a couple of people over to watch and when they announced my pick, it went nuts,” confessed Gill. “People started screaming and shouting and every emotion of excitement you can imagine was being expressed. The fact that I was drafted in the first round was one of, if not the best feelings of my life.”
Gill had put all of the work in, but it was clear the Huskies have had a solid track record when it comes to drafting ultra-intelligent rangy defencemen from the Moncton Flyers program.
There’s no question Gill has been compared to former Huskie standout and current Flyers star defenceman Phil Myers on countless occasions by numerous scouts. Comparisons and projections are out of every players control. The only thing that Gill was really focused on after being drafted in the first round was getting prepared for the next level, getting ready to make the jump.
“This summer, I worked a lot on my strength and explosiveness in the gym,” Gill said.
“On the ice, I worked a lot on my skating and in close puck handling drills,” explained Gill who trains under Rick Leger and Derek Cormier at Pro Evolution Hockey.
“I started with Rick when I was going into my first-year bantam and even since then they have been the program that I go to for my training,” stressed Gill.
“Derek and Rick run an elite program and provide players with all the tools and staff necessary to prepare you for the upcoming season.”
“Derek provides a load of on ice experience, I’m very thankful for all the work and time he’s put in working with me these past few years,” said Gill.
Patience took on an entirely new meaning for Gill and many other QMJHL prospects as the league, it’s eighteen franchises and the Quebec and Maritime governments sorted out quarantine rules and guidelines.
Quarantine and Camp
Spending fourteen days off the ice heading into your first QMJHL training camp must have been nerve wracking to say the least. Gill like so many other players across the league faced the same dilemma. Staying fit and focused was priority number one. “Quarantine before training camp was very different,” admitted Gill.
“We were at a place in the middle of nowhere, but we had access to a gymnasium, kayaks, canoes, basketball net, swimming pool, and even hockey sticks to play ball hockey.”
“It was tough because there wasn’t much training equipment, but we made do.”
“Doing workouts or going for jogs everyday kept us in good enough shape for training camp,” Gill said “The Huskies were very well prepared for this considering how little time they had to put it together. We had a nice spot to sleep every night, lots of open spaced to do activities and lots of things to pass the time. I would much rather this than being in a hotel room,” stressed Gill who is currently experiencing his second fourteen-day quarantine of the season after returning home last week.
Nerves and The Process
How nervous was Gill starting camp after quarantine and having such high expectations, attention and pressure being a first rounder? “Going into training camp, I was pretty nervous, but at the same time I knew what I was capable of and was prepared for it.”
“I knew that all the work I put in was to prepare me for camp and now I just had to go prove it.”
“I knew people had expectations for me, but I did my best not to pay attention to them.”
“I feel I had a very good training camp and proved to everyone I deserved to be there,” admitted the smooth skating high end defenceman.
The one knock on Gill coming out of Midget AAA centered around skating and explosiveness. He has certainly quieted any of those concerns with his play so far. “It’s taken a bit of adjusting making the jump from Major Midget to the Q,” said Gill.
“The thing that helped me the most is just keeping things simple and trusting our systems. I’m very fortunate to have one of the best coaching staff’s in the league helping me out and guiding me through.”
“The game is so fast and skilled.”
“Every single player on the ice is dangerous, it really makes you work as hard as you can all the time because if you take your foot off the gas it’ll end up in the back of your net,” Gill said.
“The biggest surprise for me was how fast things are. I knew it would be fast, but I didn’t know that it would be that fast.”
“The speed at which the players think and play the game is incredible.”
“I feel I’ve handled this change very well. It’s also forced me to work on my speed personally therefor I think I’ve benefitted from it.”
Gill’s ability to read, react and think the game is simply incredible.
He’s a natural when it comes to processing the game, making a solid first pass and jumping into the play when warranted.
Some young players can think the game, Dyllan Gill is always two plays ahead. With all that being said, the nerves for game one was definitely there. Everything that he ever dreamed of was directly in front of him. The nerves, pressure and expectations sometimes never go way in year one. “My first game and shift was pretty nerve wracking,” confessed Gill.
“I knew what I had to do and that’s exactly what I did.”
“My first game in general went pretty well, it was so fast and skilled that it took me a few shifts to get adjusted, but from there I feel I did pretty well.”
Spoken like a true student of the game and a natural when it comes to handling the pressure. Dyllan Gill’s personality, character and poise under pressure is what sets him apart.
There is one aspect of Gill’s rookie campaign that he would change if he had the chose. “Playing without fans is different,” explained Gill.
“Considering one of the biggest things I heard about Rouyn was their fanbase, it’s certainly different not playing in front of fans. However, in the same breath it shows how bad people want to be there because the boys still get pumped up on the bench and pumped up for every game,” Gill said.
Having the opportunity to live out his dreams of playing in the QMJHL isn’t lost on the young skilled sixteen-year-old rearguard. “I’m super pumped to get the season back on track,” he said.
“It’s been a weird season so far with COVID, but I feel it’s been very successful.”
“I’m playing with more confidence and I’m getting a lot better. I really hope to continue on this path for the second half,” explained Gill.
Progress, growth, development and success. That’s the Huskie way. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have the uncanny ability and culture to build championship caliber teams, over and over and over again. There’s no secret, it’s all about culture, it’s all about the Huskie way. The Huskies draft and develop like no other team. The Huskies do it the right way. They build their players up. They allow their rookies room to grow, but most importantly they give their young players an opportunity to experience success which breeds confidence.
Progress, growth, development, confidence and success. That basically summarizes Dyllan Gill’s first foray into the QMJHL. The soft-spoken quiet confident defender is quick to serve up advice to other young draft eligible players. “I’d suggest to any draft eligible player to keep things simple and to trust the process.”
“Good things happen to those who deserve it,” Gill said.
“If you’re working to get better every day, good things will come. I would also tell them to never forget your dream and work every day toward that dream.”
Dyllan Gill has certainly had a lot of time to think about his maiden voyage in the QMJHL. He finds himself in quarantine once again. The hours and days may seem long to some, but the prospect of getting to spend time with his family and friends during the holiday season is well worth it. What’s round two of quarantine like?
“I’ve been doing homework, working out and sleeping a lot. I’ve been playing some Xbox to,” Gill said with a smile.
“The days seem pretty long, but it is what it is based off the circumstances. I’m looking forward to getting out of quarantine and seeing my friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Every player will always remember their rookie season. It’s forever etched in their hockey playing soul. You can tell a lot about a player’s skill, character and resiliency watching them play in year one. Dyllan Gill has a very bright future in the QMJHL, the game of hockey and life.