In a huge challenge for a hockey player, Dryden Michaud is playing in the Western Hockey League at 145 pounds, and making a quantum leap straight from junior B to major junior.
But he also moves like a rocket, and that has won him a spot on the storied Saskatoon Blades.
“After my first practice, I felt like ‘I can play with these guys,’” said Michaud, who was named after the legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender.
A young Dryden broke his goaltending father’s heart by taking to neither the Habs nor the net, but Randy Michaud is happy now, after seeing his son play in front of thousands of hockey crazy Prairie fans.
“To see him get there, and be so happy … ”
Dryden is living the hockey dream.
Both the Prince George Cougars and the Everette Silvertips had him try out, and were interested in obtaining his rights. But those are two elite teams, with set lineups that would be hard for a rookie to crack. When the rebuilding Blades called, it appeared there was more opportunity. They wanted to fly him out, to skate with the team.
“I told him to go out, have fun, and work your ass off,” said Randy.
Michaud, an 18-year-old forward, was always one of the smallest kids on his rep teams in Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey, but also one of the fastest and most skilled.
He played with Yale Hockey Academy for two seasons, and put up 42 points in 46 games there.
Billy Wilms, executive director of the Yale Academy, said Michaud has a tremendous skill level, and “can stickhandle out of a phone booth.”
In 2014, Michaud got the biggest goal in the program’s history. At the Bauer Invite in Chicago, the largest U-16 tournament in the world, he scored the tournament winner in the final against the elite U.S. program Detroit HoneyBaked, a team whose alumni include NHL stars Patrick Kane and Ryan Kessler.
Wilms expected to see Michaud go the college route, but believes he will success in ‘The Dub.’
“The WHL is the greatest junior hockey league in the world,” said Wilms. “And there is definitely room for the under-sized skill guy.”
Blades GM Colin Priestner thinks so too.
“He’s already our fastest player,” said Priestner.
“He’s extremely fast, I like his hockey IQ out there, and his skill level. He’s played a couple of games so far, and he’s getting better every night.”
As Priestner builds his team, he considers the move to faster players that is happening in hockey at all levels. The Medicine Hat Tigers have a roster that is loaded with smaller, skilled players, he points out, and they have been filling the net.
But he said the jump from Junior B to the elite levels of junior hockey is a major challenge.
“He’s having a major adjustment, jumping up two levels,” said Priestner.
Dryden played Junior B for the Abbotsford Pilots last season, getting 18 goals and 40 points in 43 games as a rookie.
His father Randy had played goal for the Junior A Abbotsford Flyers back in the day, so Dryden was following in his skate trails.
Dryden graduated in 2016 from Pitt Meadows Secondary with honours, and his hockey path appeared set – play in the B.C. Hockey League, and then land a college scholarship in the NCAA.
He played five games in the PJHL this year, and had four goals and eight points in five games.
And then the WHL came calling.
Playing a single game of major junior means sacrificing his eligibility in the NCAA, but Michaud hasn’t looked back.
He the Blades have a professional atmosphere, and a great group of guys.
“Everyone is here to be the best that they can be, on and off the ice.”
There were butterflies in his stomach before that first game. He hasn’t played before crowds of up to 6,000 fans before.
“I wasn’t nervous until I got to the rink, and then it all hit me,” he said. “Once the puck dropped, I was really confident.”
In five games he has yet to score, but is on a quick line that is generating chances.
Size is an issue, but it’s not a new one for him.
“There’s guys in the league who have 50 or 55 pounds on me,” he said. “But I’ve always dealt with it, throughout hockey.”
“I feel like I’m solid out there. I’m not making mistakes. I think I’ll stick here.”