Victoria Royals left wing Ryan Peckford was having a great NHL draft year last season until the injury bug derailed his chances of being taken in the
draft. After being rated in NHL Central Scouting’s initial list, he did not hear his name called by any NHL teams. He does not have far to look though, for some inspiration this season as far as getting selected in your second year available.
“It’s disappointing not getting drafted in your first year eligible. Guys on my team like Tyler Soy-he didn’t get drafted in his first year and got drafted in his second. He’s doing really good. I can look up to him in that way. It’s nice getting noticed early on this year and I just have to play my game and look good to the scouts,” Peckford said.
Peckford did put up 34 points as a 17-year-old in 45 games played. “I had some injuries in the second half of the season so I had to play through that and it held me back.”
Peckford, who was taken in the second round of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, got into 62 regular season and 11 playoffs games as a 16-year-old in 2015-16.
“Regular season as a 16-year-old is definitely a big jump from midget. All the games are faster and high-paced. Everyone is bigger and stronger so it takes some getting used, but it is definitely a lot of of fun. Playoffs is just another step up from that as it gets a lot more intense. Things are more important in the playoffs and every game counts, so it adds some pressure, but it was a lot of fun.”
This season, Peckford has piled up 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points in his first 21 games. He makes up a dynamic line with diminutive, offensive play-makers Matthew Phillips and Dante Hannoun. It’s saying something, when the 6-foot-1, 197 pound Peckford is by far the biggest player on his line. The 5-foot-6 Hannoun and 5-foot-7 Phillips make up for their lack of size with incredible play-making abilities.
“It’s a lot of fun. They are both really high-skilled players and they get you the puck. You just always have to have your stick on the ice ready to shoot because they will find a way to get it to you. It’s really nice getting to play with those two.”
Peckford’s start has NHL scouts taking notice as he was rated a “C” level prospect once again by NHL Central Scouting in early October. He has been picking the brains of the two NHL-drafted forwards in his locker room, to prepare himself better for this big year.
“You talk to them (Phillips and Soy) when they get back from their NHL camps about the expectations and what is like up there. They just tell you what it’s like at the next level and how you have to be ready to go for every game because things are important as you are fighting for a job. It helps you to be able to talk to guys like that and get some knowledge about what it’s like being up there at NHL camps.”
Peckford and company are off to a strong start this season with a 14-6-1-0 record through their first 21 games. He credits a team commitment to their systems as a big reason they are leading the B.C. Division right now.
“We are all just buying in to what our coach is telling us to do. Playing the systems that we have. We have a lot of strong lines that can all score and have offense coming from everywhere. That has been helping and (Griffen) Outhouse has been shutting the door again too, so that’s been good.”
Victoria has a new head coach this year as Dan Price, who was an assistant last year, took over for the departing Dave Lowry. Price has stuck with what was successful for Lowry but has made a few minor changes that have helped the Royals create offense.
“It’s quite similar still with him working with Dave last year and Dave being the good coach that he is-he took some ideas that are the same. He added some little tweaks in the offensive zone. He likes having us set it up to make plays rather than just put it on net or getting it in deep. He likes us making plays and being offensive. That’s probably the biggest difference-a little more freedom in the offensive zone to make plays.”
With the injuries last year derailing him possibly getting selected in the NHL draft, Peckford took to the summer with a strong commitment to improve specific areas of his game.
“I worked on my skating. I feel like I got faster and in the gym I got a lot bigger for this season-a lot stronger. That has helped me a lot in the corners to win battles. I feel like I got bigger and faster. I always work on my hands a lot too and my shot. I feel really good for this season.”
Peckford has learned the hard way, that just because you are on the NHL draft radar, does not guarantee that you will be selected. With a strong year playing in a potent offense, he could bounce back and rectify that this coming June in Dallas, Texas.