When the Washington Capitals selected center Garrett Pilon in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, the 18-year-old from Canada was looking for his car keys so he could go to the gym.
“I wasn’t trying to pay too much attention to the draft, I had lost my car keys and was looking around for them for about 20 minutes,” Pilon recalled. “The draft was on TV upstairs and as I was looking in the cushions, I looked up and saw my name up on the bar across the top of the screen. It took me a while to process what had happened.”
Garrett is the son of former NHL defenseman Rich Pilon (Birthplace: Saskatoon, SK, CAN). His father spent most of his career with the New York Islanders from 1988 up until 2000 where he went from Long Island to the bright lights of Manhattan to play for the Rangers. After a season and a half with the Blueshirts, he finished out his career with St. Louis.
“I really don’t remember too much of watching (my dad’s) games but I remember the dressing room really well and just being around the rink. I remember watching from a box when I was in St. Louis. There would be guys like Jackson Keane and Matthew Takatchuk in there with me watching the game. We have a pretty cool picture of us as kids all wearing our dad’s jerseys up in that box,” said Pilon.
Garrett fell in love with the sport of hockey at a young age due to being around the ice often as a kid and interacting with all the players. He loved playing a variety of sports growing up but hockey was the sport he found himself to be good at and enjoyed playing.
His dad was a hard hitter but his son has a much different style to playing. “When it comes to fighting, I still haven’t gotten in one yet. I had an interview and I mentioned not being a fighter like him but I for sure wouldn’t back down if the opportunity and timing was right,” Pilon said. “I think I play a smart, two-way style where I can distribute the puck in tight areas to then be able to come through the neutral zone with speed. With me being a small player, I think I rely on using deception throughout my game a lot.”
Having a dad as a professional athlete can be challenging if you’re trying to go far in the respective sport as well, but Garrett has learned to adjust to that kind of pressure.
“My dad being an NHL player brought some pressure along with it. As a young player I always wanted to be the best and hated making mistakes because I felt like I was letting him down,” said Pilon. “As I’ve gotten older I learned how to not be as hard on myself, but I still had times where I stumbled at that. My dad has been good with me finding my own way and guiding me when I need it, but also keeping distance and letting me learn and enjoy the game on my own.”
When Garrett found out he was a Washington Capital, Rich wasn’t home. He was at Tim Hortons. Garrett still couldn’t find his car keys so he borrowed his mom’s car to drive to the gym. On his way there he stopped at the popular Canadian fast food restaurant to tell his Dad the news and then headed off to the gym to see his trainer. The adjective he used to describe his day was “crazy” with tons of phone calls and excitement. By the way, he did find his keys the next day.
Garrett is listed at 5’10” and 175 pounds. With the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season, he registered 47 points with 15 goals and 32 assists. His most memorable moment of this past season was scoring his first WHL goal in his first regular season WHL game.
When Garrett was really little he enjoyed watching Joe Sakic. As he was growing up playing youth hockey it was around the time Sydney Crosby came into the league and he took a liking towards him (breathe easy, Caps fans!). “I admired his detail and effort he put in to being arguably the best player in the league today,” said Pilon. “These days, I really like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Toews is known to be a great leader and I love watching Patty Kane do his thing.”
Garrett was surprised when Washington picked him despite hearing from his agent that the Caps expressed interest in him. Even though they were interested, he hadn’t gotten any contact from the organization. Because he thought he’d be drafted later, he opted not to travel to Buffalo for the Draft festivities.
“I was thinking if I did get drafted it would be somewhere after the fifth round so I was quite shocked when I heard my name called in the third round,” recalled Pilon. “I was drafted a little later in the WHL and always knew how to prove to people that I am better than what they may have thought I was. With being drafted higher than what people thought I should have gone there will be the different challenge of proving that I am good enough for where I went and good enough to make a successful hockey career. I love proving critics wrong and I’m looking forward to growing as a hockey player to do so.”
Photo: Blazers Hockey
Garrett is taking that confidence into this upcoming season as he heads back to the Kamloops Blazers. He wants to accomplish leading his team to finishing first in both the division and conference.
“I think we have the right pieces in place where we will have a shot to do that but we will never know until the season starts,” Pilon said. “As an individual I want to be a guy the team will have to trust to lean on for scoring and a guy who can produce a lot offense but also be responsible on both ends of the ice. If I do all the little things and get grittier around the net, I think points will take care of themselves.”
Just days after getting drafted by Washington, he flew to DC to take part in the Capitals annual Development Camp. Once again the event was held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, their state of the art practice facility located in Arlington, Virginia.
Photo: Blazers Hockey
“Caps Development Camp was a great experience and being able to go to Washington, experience the city, get a glimpse of what the culture of the team is, and being able to see what it can be like at the NHL level was amazing. Seeing all the facilities and how nice you are treated and all the stuff that is available to you really gives you more incentive to wanting to be there,” exclaimed Pilon. “You are surrounded with other young hockey players that want what you want and the type of play is a lot more elite. Passes are harder and better. Goalies are bigger and quicker and the same can go for the defensemen. Overall, I soaked in a lot of stuff from it and it was a great experience for me.”
It was a true experience of the life of a NHLer for those who attended Development Camp: getting the knowledge you need from many coaches of the highest level and even getting to sign autographs for the fans following practices. Garrett got a lot out of his experience with the Capitals.
“As a young player you always want to become more explosive and stronger. Being at the camp showed me how much stronger the older guys in the AHL are and gives you something to work for during the off-season,” Pilon said. “I think Development Camp was a great way for us young guys to see where we fit and I believe the fall camp will help us learn more about the stuff we can bring back to our teams for the season so that we can have success there.”
By Michael Marzzacco