GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Dylan Garand was a wide-eyed teenager when he attended Rangers training camp last year, and he has video of himself making a couple saves during camp scrimmages stored on his phone, proof that he actually was there.
Now 20, and about to start his first professional season, the 6-0, 173-pound Victoria, British Columbia native is dying to see just how much better he is now than he was then.
“I remember last year Mika Zibanejad, he put me in a couple of uncomfortable spots,’’ Garand said Tuesday as the Rangers wrapped up their weeklong rookie camp. “He kind of dangled me out pretty good a couple of times… So he's probably the guy that I'm kind of looking forward to facing off in camp.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see some shots from him… just to see how much how different the year's made for me, personally, to kind of face a shot and see if I can stop it this time.’’
Garand, who the Rangers took in the fourth round of the 2020 draft (103rd overall), had a fabulous year in between last fall and now. He put together a 34-9-1 record, with a 2.16 goals-against average and .925 save percentage for Kamloops of the Western Hockey League and went 11-5 in the playoffs, with a 1.92 GAA and .933 save percentage. He was the top goaltender in the WHL as well as being named the CHL Goaltender of the Year. In August, he backstopped Team Canada to the goal medal at the World Junior Championships.
Next for Garand is to step up from junior hockey to pro, and he’s most likely going to do that this season in the AHL with the Rangers’ Hartford farm team. He’s already played two games for Hartford, having been there at the start of the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season, before the WHL decided to play a partial campaign.
“I feel like I'm ready for the next level,’’ he said. “Obviously, it's a little bit faster and they shoot a little bit harder and things like that. But I feel like that experience that I had at World Juniors [playing with and against] a bunch of first round picks… you kind of get used to that high speed and skill. So, to have that for a month and to do well there, and to also win, is definitely a huge experience for me, and definitely something that I can use going into the season.’’
With Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin cemented in place as the Rangers’ No. 1 goaltender, Garand likely is a long way away from being the next great Blueshirts goalie. He was asked what he needs to work on and improve in order to get there.
“It's a question that I've thought about myself a couple times, especially this past week,’’ he said. “I feel like just sticking to my game — I know what works for me, so kind of continue to build that foundation and that stuff at the next level.’’
Notes & quotes. Sixty-six players (41 forwards, 18 defensemen, seven goaltenders) will report for training camp at the Rangers’ practice facility on Wednesday, with the first on-ice action to take place Thursday.