Kamloops Blazers 2018-2019 season preview — Part 2: No. 1 goaltender spot is Ferguson’s to lose

Dylan Ferguson woke up to about 1,000 new Instagram followers on Nov. 15, the day after after making his improbable NHL debut for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Most Kamloops Blazers fans know the story by now.

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A string of injuries forced the Knights to call up their fifth-string netminder, 19-year-old Ferguson, who was thrown into action against the Oilers in Edmonton on Nov. 14, when fourth-string goalie Maxime Lagace left the game with 9:14 remaining in the third period.

The Lantzville product enjoyed a taste of life in the NHL and the money that comes along with it, about $63,000 (base salary divided by number of days in season multiplied by days on active roster) for what amounted to about $7,000 per minute played in the The Show.

Ferguson enters his 20-year-old campaign prepared to ride buses across Western Canada, but remains focused on pushing his way into pro hockey, mentioning in an interview with KTW his desire to play this season for the Chicago Wolves, the Knights’ AHL affiliate.

Vegas has a logjam of capable goaltenders that grew when it signed 23-year-old Zach Fucale on July 1. Should Ferguson return to Kamloops, he will be the No. 1 guy.

Ferguson has a greater knowledge of hockey business than most players his age and will be aware of his trade value, especially if the Blazers snare the 2020 Memorial Cup.

Instead of looking at the what-ifs — one of which is playing full-time for the Blazers throughout the 2018-2019 campaign — the confident goaltender is focusing on getting better every day.

“I’m here now and I’ve got to focus on being here,” said Ferguson, noting he toiled hard at Prime Sport Performance in Nanaimo in the off-season to stay in shape.

Ferguson will head to Golden Knights’ development camp next week.

“I’m here to work with Dan [Blazers’ goalie coach Dan De Palma] and tune up for that camp,” Ferguson said. “I’m going there to make a team.”

Three backstops came to Blazers’ training camp this month looking to make a major-junior team — 18-year-old Max Palaga, 17-year-old Rayce Ramsay and 16-year-old Dylan Garand.

Palaga, from Kamloops, won a job at training camp last season, edging Kyle Dumba to become the Blazers’ backup netminder.

He played in 17 games in 2017-2018, posting a .875 save percentage and 3.71 goals-against average.

“This is a pretty important year for me,” Palaga said. “The most important thing is not to worry about anyone else. My confidence is where I want it to be. Just play my game. There’s no reason to make drastic changes. Just be myself.”

Palaga trained in the off-season on the Coast with established goalie coach Eli Wilson. He also worked with junior A Coquitlam Express goaltending coach Matt Korchmar and local netminding coach Lucas Gore.

Meanwhile, Victoria product Garand was training six times a week and earned an invite to Hockey Canada’s under-17 development camp in Calgary in June.

“I expect to be here for sure,” said Garand, noting he enjoyed working in the summer with Maxime Vaillancourt, goaltending coach for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Garand is the only WHL-drafted goalie pushing for the Blazers’ No. 2 job, selected by former Kamloops GM Stu MacGregor in Round 3 of the 2017 bantam draft.

The domino effect from Ferguson’s whirlwind tour of the NHL resulted in Garand’s WHL debut. Garand, then 15, was twice called up to the Blazers in November and played in three games, finishing with a .877 save percentage.

He earned his first WHL win against Red Deer on Nov. 10, making 31 saves in a first-star performance.

Ramsay, from Saskatoon, was not drafted, but impressed enough at Blazers’ training camp last year to earn a WHL contract.

“I don’t really look at anything with labels,” Ramsay said. “I’m just another guy at camp here fighting for a spot. All the other goalies are the same.”

Off-season work for Ramsay included training with Blaine Whyte of Pro Sport Rehab and Fitness and Sheldon Goertzen, an assistant coach for the Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.

“It’s very humbling,” Ramsay said. “I’m grateful to be given this opportunity. My No. 1 goal is to make this team.”



© Kamloops This Week


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