FloridaPanthers.com recently caught up with the Panthers’ 2014 second round pick, F Jayce Hawryluk during his trip to the WHL Finals as his Brandon Wheat Kings face the Kelowna Rockets for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
With career-highs in goals and points this season, how do you feel another year in the WHL has helped your game develop?
Hawryluk: I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable. Coming in as an older guy, you expect more out of yourself and I feel like I’ve been able to produce and help the team in that way. Having an older team this year and so many great players on the team has definitely helped my improvement as well. Playing with great players is always a bonus. When you have great linemates, that just makes the game easy.
What does it mean to you on a personal level, to reach the WHL Finals this season?
Hawryluk: It’s always been a goal of mine to win a championship and I know at the beginning of the year it was our goal to make it to the finals and win a championship. Now that we are here it’s very exciting and it means a lot to myself and our organization and we’re hoping to come out on top.
What areas of your game this season do you feel you’ve grown the most in?
Hawryluk: I think all over, but I think mostly in my defensive game. Over the past few seasons I’ve really focused on being a plus player after my first season not going so well in that area and my second season was definitely a huge bounce back. This season I just wanted to build off of that and I thought that it went well.
Is there a particular player in the NHL that you try to emulate or model your game after?
Hawryluk: I’ve always tried to model my game after a guy like Brendan Gallagher...play with a lot of tenacity and grit, but still have some [offense].
Have you kept tabs at all on the Panthers this season?
Hawryluk: Definitely. I’ve watched a few games online because we don’t get their channel down here. I have NHL GameCenter so I’ve caught a few games, I know a couple of guys on the team fairly well, like Aaron Ekblad, so it’s fun to watch and see how they are doing. It was a great season for them, real fun to watch and hopefully I can be a part of that some day.
Were you and Ekblad texting back and forth or just checking in once and a while?
Hawryluk: No, not exactly texting back and forth, he was pretty busy with his season. But whenever I see him we’re good buddies, we talk. Just watching him and seeing how great of a season he’s had is fun to watch. He’s a tremendous player as you can see, being nominated for rookie of the year. He’s a good buddy of mine so when I see him we hang out.
It was almost a year ago now that the Panthers selected you at the Draft and next month the Draft will be in South Florida. What are your memories of the Draft and do you have any advice for some of the future Florida Panthers that will be drafted in June?
Hawryluk: The Draft was an awesome process, something I’ve dreamed about my whole life. To be honest, it didn’t really become a reality to me until a few months before the Draft...that it was a possibility for me to get drafted. I think for any kid that gets drafted into the NHL, just take your time to realize how special that is and how much of an honor it is to be selected into the top league in the world. Not every kid gets to feel that feeling, so just soak it in, be humble and work as hard as you can to make that next step.
Right after the draft you had Development Camp and Training Camp. What are some of your memories from being at camp with the Panthers? Being with guys who are around your age, as well as some established NHLers as well?
Hawryluk: I have a lot of memories from camp. I think I just tried to go there and soak it all in and just realize how much work it takes to get to the next level. A lot of guys exemplified that. Scottie Upshall [for example]. I became pretty good friends with him and we text back and forth here and then. He keeps tabs on my season too as he’s been congratulating me on certain milestones that I’ve reached. He was a great mentor to me when I down there, him and Shane O’Brien were two great guys that I’ll never forget coming to my first NHL camp and themwelcoming me in and taking me out for supper. Those are the types of guys you want to model your career after, you want to be like them, hard-working guys that worked for everything they’ve got and just great guys off the ice too. That’s something I want to be like one day.