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Garland Working to Reach NHL

by Anthony Perez / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- After spending the past two seasons posting remarkable offensive numbers in junior hockey, Coyotes prospect Conor Garland is excited to turn pro.

Garland, who was picked by Arizona in the fifth round (123rd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, has been turning heads this week at his second Prospect Development Camp. And unlike most of his fellow prospects, Garland plans to stick around the Valley after the camp to train and work on his game.

“I’ve been here for a week now and I’ll spend the summer here,” Garland said. “I’ve been on the ice with a couple of the guys, so it hasn’t been a big step just getting back on the ice. But it’s good to obviously get your feet under you and get back working at the rink.”

Conor Garland. Photo by Norm Hall.

And if taking the next step is anything like what the past two seasons have been like for Garland, then the next year or two could become very interesting for he and the Coyotes.

One season removed from posting 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 51 regular-season games during the 2013-14 season, his first full year with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, Garland took a huge leap forward when he notched 129 points (35 goals, 94 assists) in 67 games in 2014-15. He followed that campaign with 128 points (39 goals, 89 assists) in 62 games last season, and added another 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 17 playoff games in Moncton’s bid for the QMJHL’s President Cup.

Garland’s regular-season point total was tops in the league, and he averaged a staggering 2.06 points-per-game and was kept off the scoresheet in just four of his 62 games.

Garland credits his coaching staff in Moncton for helping him, but he also said having access to Coyotes resources helped further his development.

“I know (Coyotes Director of Player Development) Steve Sullivan watched a lot of video for me and I could make steps that way with another person watching my game,” Garland said.

Sullivan loves how Garland plays the game.

“Conor Garland is a special hockey player,” Sullivan said. “He's very dynamic, he’s very skilled, he’s very slippery. He executes high-end plays at an astounding rate. He can really, really see the ice, he’s very smart and he’s had tons of success. We’re just hoping that that ability and that skill can translate at the next level. That’s what we’re waiting to see.”

Garland (5-foot-8, 163 pounds) plays a similar style to what Sullivan played in the NHL, and like Sullivan did before him, Garland is also aiming to go from junior hockey to the NHL.

Conor Garland. Photo by Norm Hall.

“Having someone who made the jump from junior to the NHL - and he had a very successful career – helps me to see what I need to work on,” Garland said. “Obviously, it was my two-way game and I think when I had games where I wasn’t as good as I should be I was able to get clips of what I needed to work on (from Sullivan) and watch video and get better as the year goes on.”

But despite wanting to make the Coyotes roster now, Garland says he’s not going to rush his development.

“Wherever I end up is going to be the right situation for me and that’s going to be my first year of pro, so it’s just going to be a learning year,” Garland said. “I’m just going to try to get better everyday. It’s a long process to play in the National (Hockey) League, which is every guy’s dream here. So, you just have to take it one day at a time.”

Sullivan said Garland needs to work on becoming a two-way forward.

“What he lacks in is play away from the puck, his defensive zone coverage, and we know we can teach that,” Sullivan said. “That’s the easiest part of the game to teach is the defensive side of the puck. So, we’re not too worried about him. It’s about him buying into it, playing it and kind of taking some chances. He knows when to take them and play defense when he has to. It’s a matter of just trying to find that happy medium between him being that total offensive player and being accountable on the defensive side of the puck. And once he finds that little niche and that happy medium I think we’re going to have a really good player on our hands.”

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