After signing with Vancouver in March, Zalewski joined the Canucks for the remainder of the season where he was able to train and adapt to the pro life style. After nearly a month of practicing and training, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder got to fulfill a lifelong dream as he was slotted into the lineup for the Canucks’ final two games of the season.
“Everybody’s dream is to play in the NHL,” said Zalewski, who earned one assist and was plus-2 in the two games. “To get that chance and to play a couple games makes you want it that much more. It was a really exciting time and I hope I can get that chance again this season.”
Zalewski knows just how beneficial that time in Vancouver was for his development. Not only did it make him hungrier to get to that level on a full-time basis, but hanging around the pro game after spending two seasons in the NCAA not only helped him then, but it will also prove to be an added bonus for winger come time for his first NHL camp starting later this week.
“To be able to skate and train in Vancouver for a month last season was huge,” he said. “Getting to know the guys and more importantly seeing how they prepare day in and day out make a huge difference for me coming into this season rather than just having to jump into my first camp not knowing anything.”
Zalewski knows that cracking the Canucks roster out of camp may be tough, but it’s not out of the question if he can showcase his game during the pre-season. He’s a blue-collar player that has a motor that doesn’t seem to shut off.
“I just need to show everyone the game that I can play and what I bring to the table,” said Zalewski, who is back in the Okanagan for the first time since his playing days with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. “Every time I go on the ice I have to bring what I got and do all the little things right. If I can prove to them what I do right and what I bring to the table I think I will give myself a chance.”
There’s a chance the New Hartford, New York product will be down in Utica developing his game with the Canucks AHL affiliate next season. Comets coach Travis Green, who is also behind the bench for the Canucks at the 2014 Young Stars Classic, is getting his first look at Zalewski in Penticton and likes what he sees.
“He is a good, honest, hardworking player that plays the game well,” said Green. “He is strong on the puck and will probably be able to play in a couple different roles next season. I have liked his game so far, there isn’t a lot I don’t like. I would like to watch him play a little longer to give a definitive answer, but I have liked what I have seen so far.”
Playing for the Comets would also be a bit of a homecoming for Zalewski as his hometown of New Hartford is located just outside of Utica, but if it were up to him, he wouldn’t be going home until the off-season.
“That will be exciting as well,” he said. “Obviously I want to play here in Vancouver and I would rather be here, but the next best option would be playing in the AHL in my hometown.
“If I end up there I would be a great experience, but my goal is to play here in Vancouver.”