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Former Leafs sniper Dylan Walchuk talks about life after KIJHL

Dylan Walchuk spent some time with the Adirondack Thunder, a professional ice hockey team in the ECHL that based in Glens Falls, New York, and affiliated with the NHL's New Jersey Devils. — Submitted photo

As the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League puts into place plans to re-start after the past two years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Director of Communications Emanuel Sequeira has been speaking with former grads on their careers after Junior B Hockey.

Dylan Walchuk spent the 2008-09 season with the Nelson Leafs, helping them win the KIJHL championship under the guidance of head coach Simon Wheeldon and assistant Frank Maida.

As a 16-year-old, Walchuk scored 39 goals and had 91 points in 65 regular season and playoff games. The McBride, B.C. native made the jump to the B.C. Hockey League with the Vernon Vipers, where he became a two-time BCHL champ, a Doyle Cup champ and an RBC Cup champ.

Walchuk also played in the National Collegiate Athletic Association and in the WHL.

He has played three seasons of professional hockey in Denmark and Beijing following a four-year U Sports career with the University of Calgary.

The KIJHL connected with Walchuk from his home in Calgary to talk about his professional career.

KIJHL: Dylan, what was your experience playing professional hockey in Beijing like?

DW: It was a lot of fun with a lot of new challenges like learning the Chinese language and getting used to the food and just being in a whole new culture, so it was cool to see that aspect of the world. And then also being able to play with Chinese hockey players and experiencing how things are run down there in terms of their league and coaching and everything like that, so it was a really interesting experience.

It was cool because we got to play in Russia too, so we did a lot of traveling and got to see a lot of cool sites and experienced a lot of new things. It was just a really really fun experience and I love China and at first it was a little hard to get used to.

It was just a big culture shock. But after a few months, I got used to it and it was just a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

KIJHL: How did you end up playing in the Vysshaya Hokkeinaya Liga (VHL) (also known as the Major Hockey League)?

DW: I heard a few years before I ended up going that they created a KHL team called the Kunlun Red Star. It was created to grow hockey in China to prepare for the Beijing Olympics, which are supposed to happen in 2022. They were taking Chinese heritage players from Canada and the U.S. and bringing them over there to help grow the game.

I thought that would be pretty cool if I was able to go over there and tap into my Chinese heritage and help grow hockey and get to experience everything over there.

I reached out to a few people that were involved and I actually knew a couple guys that were on the KHL team. I got in contact with the general manager, and my agent reached out to the manager and just from there, kind of kept talking and then they established last year a VHL team, which is their AHL to the NHL.

They offered me a spot to come down and signed a two-way deal. I’m on board, if it gives me a chance to potentially play in the Olympics for my country.

My heritage country, where my mom is from, I'm on board, I'll try it out so that's basically how it happened.

Walchuk also played professional hockey in Europe for the Odense Bulldogs in Odense, Denmark. — Submitted photo

KIJHL: You also spent time in the ECHL and Denmark. What were those playing experiences like?

DW: Denmark was my first year pro right out of college so it was awesome. I went over there with a friend that I played hockey with. We got an apartment together and they gave us a car. The whole community was behind our team and at one end of the rink, they would have a little band playing and they'd have everyone chanting and fans going crazy so it was cool to experience that.

And Denmark's unbelievable.

It's just a really nice country and the people there are first class.

And then the ECHL was another experience. It was a grind, but it was some of the most fun hockey I have ever played. Just being able to play a North American style game and have lots of fans, that was pretty cool. I loved my time there in Adirondack and it was a lot of fun.

KIJHL: From the time that you spent playing professionally so far, what areas did you see growth in your game?

DW:  The first year in Denmark was a big learning experience for me. I'm jumping to the pro level with the mentality that I was a top six player. I did well getting points throughout my junior and college career.

I figured it was just going to kind of happen, but it kind of was a wake up call to go in there and seeing everyone are good players and everyone's skilled and I had to adapt a little bit and work on some parts of my game that I never really worked on in junior.

I grew a lot that season learning how to play on all sides of the puck. Learning how to become a complete player. I had a tough start, but I ended up doing well after Christmas.

I felt like I was a much more well-rounded hockey player. 

The next season, I carried it on into the ECHL, where I played and grew a lot playing more of a North American style, real fast, kind of chip and dump and a lot of grinding. I think those two seasons for sure were big in my development.

KIJHL: Will you continue to play professional hockey or are you moving on from that?

DW: At the moment I'm still looking to potentially play next season. I don't have a contract right now as I'm still weighing some options. I would like to go back and play as long as I can, but right now I'm also finishing university at the U of C (University of Calgary).

I'm an economics major and I'd like to work in business in Calgary.

It would be nice to work in oil and gas if things start heating up again and potentially in the finance industry doing some trading.