Dylan Garand and Ken Fox, the former a goaltender who turns 17 on Friday and the latter one of the Kamloops Blazers’ head scouts, had different views on the weekend at the WHL club’s spring development camp, but saw the same thing.
Mats Lindgren and Connor Levis grabbed their attention.
“There’s no doubt — our first round picks,” said Fox, the Blazers’ head scout for Saskatchewan. “Their skating, Lindgren’s skating, just unbelievable edges. And the big Levis boy, he’s a big, strong power forward.”
Added Garand: “With Mats, his hands are tremendous. He’s out there dangling guys and he’s got a good shot, too, especially for not being a huge, stocky guy. With Levis, he’s fast and big and strong and he can really rip the puck. He scored on me a few times.”
Whether they sign with Kamloops remains to be seen.
Both Lindgren, picked seventh overall at the WHL Bantam Draft in Red Deer in May, and Levis, nabbed 20th overall, are verbally committed to the NCAA Division-1 University of Michigan Wolverines.
“I’m still trying to decide,” said Lindgren, a 5-foot-8, 140-pound defenceman from North Vancouver. “I love Kamloops, the city, the organization. Everything has been really good so far. I’m really happy about it.”
Levis and Lindgren were both complimentary of the Blazers without tipping their hands.
“Me and Mats, we played back in peewee, went to a Quebec international tournament and billeted together,” said Levis, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound forward from Vancouver. “It was lots of fun. When I found out he also got a scholarship from Michigan, I was really excited for him. I practise a lot with his dad, [former NHLer] Mats Lindgren. We’re great friends. We have talked a bit about our decisions. Right now, we are not 100 per cent sure on what we want to do, but definitely playing together would be lots of fun.”
The prospects’ camp, for 2003- and 2004-born players, was more about orientation than evaluation, with facilities flaunted and off-ice activities (a messy painting session at 4Cats Arts Studio was a highlight) held to expedite team bonding for the 22 who participated.
And make no mistake — it was also about courtship.
Majority owner Tom Gaglardi was in town and watching hockey was surely not the only thing on his agenda, with members of the Levis and Lindgren families among those looking on at Brock Arena.
Levis had 24 goals and 62 points in 26 games in 2018-2019 for St. George’s School’s bantam prep squad in 2018-2019. Gaglardi’s son, Bennett, was also on that team, which toils in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
“The players are incredible, the staff, the coaches … I really feel part of this organization,” said Levis, a right-shot centre. “It’s really cool to be a Blazer.
“I have some time to think about my decision. I have two great ways to go, but the Blazers are definitely an amazing organization and a great place to play.”
Lindgren, a left shot, had four goals and 26 points in 27 games last season for Burnaby Winter Club bantam prep.
“I’ve got a big decision to make,” Lindgren said. “She [his mom] likes the weather, the arena. Even the staff is very friendly to her when she’s in the stands. She thinks it’s been really good.”
Fox was asked if he could provide insight on the Wolverines-committed players’ futures with the Blazers.
“They’re close,” he said.
Added Blazers’ head B.C. scout Robbie Sandland: “It’s a priority. The biggest thing is we believe in our program and we are a very good option. We’re going to keep at it.”
Part-owner and former NHL star Darryl Sydor led the team of coaches who ran the camp. He appears to be among candidates for the Blazers’ head coaching position, which became vacant when Serge Lajoie and the team parted ways after the 2018-2019 season.
"We are getting close, but we're taking our time, double checking, triple checking, doing extra interviews with the individuals,” Blazers’ GM Matt Bardsley said when asked about the state of the hiring process. “We want to make sure we feel really good about it when we walk away from it."
It seems likely the next head coach, whoever that may be, will share perspective with Fox and Garand.
“Going forward, these guys look like they’re going to be good hockey players,” Fox said of Levis and Lindgren.
“When I first came here, I was blown away by not only the city but the organization and everyone around it,” Garand said. “I hope they got the same impression and choose the WHL instead of NCAA.”