Entering his third full season with the Regina Pats, Logan Pyett felt he arrived at training camp with something to prove. Memories of the somewhat eventful 2006 NHL Entry Draft weekend in Vancouver provided the veteran defenseman with plenty of ammunition.
Pyett was the second to last player selected, 212th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. It was a very long wait for a very key contributor to the Pats 40-win regular season last year. Of the 24 WHL players selected, Pyett was the last to hear his name called.
Asked if the late selection has served as motivation, Pyett responded “Absolutely. Even though I’m maybe not a big guy, I feel I’m as good if not better than some of the guys who did go ahead of me.
“You know, there were other guys taken ahead of me, obviously a lot of US high school players I have never gotten a chance to see play or play against.”
Although the 5’11, 200-pound Pyett admits to some anxious moments during the NHL Draft, he did not attend the festivities in Vancouver. Rather, he stayed close to home and kept an eye on proceedings on television and the Internet.
“I stayed home because I didn’t think I’d go high enough,” Pyett explained. “But it was still exciting and I was nervous at the same time. I was getting a little down toward the end, I hoped maybe I’d go in the fourth or fifth round and come the seventh round I didn’t think I’d go.
“Eventually I went to Detroit and I was pretty happy. I couldn’t ask to go to a better club. All that really mattered to me was that I was chosen.”
Pyett had an opportunity to skate with and against many of the current Red Wings prospects before this season, giving the Balgonie, Saskatchewan native a chance to demonstrate his intention to become more than just a late draft pick filling an obligatory training camp spot. Professional aspirations are definitely among Pyett’s long-term goals.
“It was a great experience,” the 18-year-old Pyett confirmed when asked about his first pro camp. “Again, going there I was nervous at first, but I was able to get into a couple games during the rookie tournament.
“Once the older guys came in, I got a chance to play on a team with Nicklas Lidstrom and to practice with Matthew Schneider. There’s so much you can learn from those guys. Overall it was a great experience and the organization treated us unbelievably well when we were down there for those couple weeks.”
Pyett enjoyed another aspect of the Wings camp, that being the opportunity to connect with a few of the club’s prospects from other WHL teams.
“Well, you kind of match yourself up against them,” Pyett said. “I know Darren Helm (Medicine Hat Tigers) was there and we played against Reid Jorgenson (Kamloops Blazers) last season. Brett Stamler (Seattle Thunderbirds) was there, too.
“Helm is one of their top forward prospects and next year will probably be playing pro for them somewhere. So when we play against Medicine Hat, I try to match up against him and see how I can play him and try to stop him. It’s definitely interesting to play with them at camp and then have to come back here to the WHL and play against them.”
According to head coach Curtis Hunt, who recently returned to Regina from a successful stint as an assistant coach with Team Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the WJC, Pyett is an integral part of the Pats offensive scheme.
“I think it may have been a shock to him going as late as he did,” Hunt said when asked how Pyett has responded this season as a drafted junior. “He’s such a talented player. He’s been part of the U-17 program where Team West won a gold medal and part of Team Canada that won a gold medal at the U-18.
“He’s a guy with tremendous offensive ability, not only to see the ice well, but to make things happen. I think Detroit sees him as a guy who, if he can improve his defensive game and his play from the blue line back, could have himself a good pro career.”
Prior to the current campaign, WHL prognosticators suggested the Pats were likely to challenge for the Eastern Conference championship, primarily due to a highly energized and mobile defensive corps. However, the club has struggled offensively from the outset and continues to under achieve. Despite the inconsistent season to date, Pyett is not pointing any fingers and doesn’t shy away from his responsibilities.
“There is certainly a leadership role I have to take on here, even as an 18-year-old,” Pyett confirmed. “We don’t really have an older club here. We have our three 20-year-olds and I think only two 19-year-olds, so we still have a lot of young players and our 18-year-olds are a big group with nine of us. There’s a lot on our shoulders.
“As a guy who sees a lot of ice and has a fair amount of responsibility on the ice, I’ve got to do my job and be prepared to play every night.”
Hunt acknowledges it has been a trying season.
“It’s been kind of tough this year,” said Hunt, a North Battleford, Saskatchewan native who played in the WHL with the Prince Alberta Raiders and previously coached the Moose Jaw Warriors. “I think coming into the season, we had high expectations being a 40-win club last year that returned quite a few players.
“But there have been some struggles because we haven’t clicked as a team. Hopefully I think now things will come around as we’ve sorted some of those things out. It has also helped that we have had a couple long road trips. We’re coming together, becoming closer as a team.”
Pyett, who has played most of the season with Nick Ross (2007 eligible), is working hard to elevate his game. He knows he’ll play in all situations for the Pats and recognizes he has to be a consistent contributor at both ends of the ice.
“I’m definitely trying to work on the defensive aspects of the game,” Pyett said. “We work on everything of course, but I’d have to say my strengths are my offensive instincts. I can quarterback the power play and I’m confident I make good first passes. The biggest asset is probably my skating ability.
“I still have to become more physical and watch how I play in the defensive zone and make sure I make good decisions when I join in on the rush.”
Through 40 games, Pyett has scored six goals and added 30 assists for the Pats, who are currently five games below .500 in the East Division of the Eastern Conference. The club is fighting the upstart Saskatoon Blades for the fourth and final playoff berth, a battle that will likely go down to the wire. The Blades eliminated Regina in a tough six-game series during the first round last season.
Despite the roller coaster ride this season, Pyett remains philosophical about continuing to make an impression on the Red Wings’ brass.
“Finishing this year strongly here is important and then going into camp in Detroit again, I feel like I need to get stronger physically and improve every time I get on the ice,” Pyett opined. “You know, the seventh round is not really something I look at anymore, it’s just a number now.
“The bottom line is I got drafted, my foot’s in the door and I have a chance.”
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.