Dylan Garand is gearing up for his second season playing pro hockey between the pipes.
After wrapping up his third New York Rangers’ Rookie Camp and officially heading into the 2023-24 season, the 21-year-old reflected on his rookie campaign playing in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack as he enters his sophomore season.
“I compared it a lot to my first year of junior where you kind of change levels and you go up with a new age group,” Garand said. “Obviously, juniors only have a four-year age gap, where with the pros it can be up to like 10-to-12 years. So that was a big adjustment. It’s the first time on your own, with your apartment and stuff like that. It’s just a big adjustment switching leagues. It took me a little while to kind of get acclimated and get used to it. Once I did that, I started having a lot more fun. I had more opportunities to play, and it was a really good learning experience.”
Despite having moved across the continent for the first time, the Victoria, British Columbia native settled into his new home in Hartford. He learned to face a lesser workload than what he experienced prior with the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League as he posted a made 32 starts as he split time with goalie tandem partner Louis Domingue.
During Hartford’s Eastern Conference Division Final loss in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, Garand – whom the Rangers selected in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft – played in all eight postseason contests. He claimed two shutouts and garnered a 1.76 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, which ranked second-best among all AHL goalies in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“That was different for sure,” Garand said. “I think the last three years in a row, I was playing every single weekend. So it was different to only get to play once a week.. So that was a new learning curve that I had to deal with. It was a good experience moving forward. I know when I get to the NHL, it is going to be a similar workflow to that. It was good to see what that’s like, see what works for me and how to manage and things like that.”
Having recharged with a productive offseason – where he focused on improving his tracking and skating – and having completed another Rangers’ Rookie Camp with fellow budding players in the organization’s system, Garand has his sights set on a successful sophomore season. And with more insight to use as leverage from the valuable experience he gained as a rookie, as well as taking steps in the offseason to strengthen his mental fortitude, Garand feels confident in embracing whatever lies ahead in the coming weeks.
“The biggest thing [to work on in the] offseason was my mental strength,” Garand said. “I started working with a mental performance coach. My goalie coach back home is kind of like my mental coach, too. Just driving that confidence in myself. I know that I’m a good goalie and [worked on starting to play] like that. That’s probably the biggest thing that I worked on for sure. I’m excited for another year.”