Kamloops Blazers' captain Zary talks leadership style, missing Sopotyk, motivation for WHL campaign

Connor Zary was on Wednesday named captain of the Kamloops Blazers.

The 19-year-old Saskatoon product is in his fourth season with the Blazers, who nabbed him in Round 2 of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

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Zary, who was selected by the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, represented Canada this past winter at the World Junior Hockey Championship, winning silver.

The six-foot, 188-pound left shot has played in 188 games with the Blazers, compiling 73 goals and 182 points.

Earlier this year, Zary began his professional career, toiling for the Stockton Heat and racking up three goals and seven points in nine games for the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Zary answered a few questions on Thursday, a day before the Blazers begin their WHL campaign against the Vancouver Giants, a 7 p.m. start at Sandman Centre.

KTW: What does it mean to you to be the captain of the Kamloops Blazers?
Connor Zary: It’s an honour and I think a pretty special moment, pretty special opportunity that lies ahead to be captain and put my best forward in leading the group. We have a lot of leaders on the team, a lot of guys who could wear the C, so I’m just honoured and privileged to be the guy with the opportunity.

KTW: How would you describe your leadership style? Are you fairly vocal in the dressing room?
ZARY: It’s a bit of both. I’m a pretty vocal guy, but I lead by example, as well. For me, it’s finding the right balance between both and keeping it loose in the dressing room, but also knowing when it’s go time and time to dial it in.

KTW: What is it like to get a taste of the AHL and then come back down to the WHL for a shortened season?
ZARY: It’s a bit different and I enjoyed my time up with Stockton and Calgary, but I was excited to come back to Kamloops and most likely finish my junior career. It’s a pretty short time and it’s going to be 24 games in 48 or 50 days. It’s going to be a crazy whirlwind, but it’ll be pretty special. I’m trying to have fun with it.

Things fly by. You come in here at 15. Now, I’m 19 and, by the end of this year, I’m 20. Things have flown by since I first arrived.

KTW: The game was not too big for you in the AHL. You contributed right away. What did that do for your confidence?
ZARY: I’m ready. Being able to get that experience definitely helps with my development and with confidence, knowing you can play your game at the next level and still produce. You’ve got to move the puck quicker, move your feet quicker and think a little quicker, but I was ready for that challenge and gained valuable experience day by day.

KTW: How are you coping with Kyrell Sopotyk not being around?
ZARY: He’s in my thoughts all the time. He’s a guy we really miss. Everyone is thinking about him. We’ve talked about him a bit. He’s just guy you always know when he’s out there. He brings a lot of energy and he’s always having fun. He puts a smile on your face every day That’s a guy we miss having out on the ice, but especially in the dressing room. It’s tough not having him here, but he’s always in our thoughts.

KTW: This is an unusual season. There will be no regular playoffs, no Memorial Cup champion. Is it harder to get up for it, knowing you can’t win a true championship?
ZARY: It’s easy to have those thoughts. You can’t lie to yourself. It is a different year. But our goal is coming to the rink every day to win a game. We’re doing everything we can to win the B.C. Division. It’s not like this year means nothing. There is a lot on the line for every guy and for the team and coaches and management. We come to the rink to improve ourselves and our team. We want to be the best team in the B.C. Division.

© Kamloops This Week



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