When it comes to his hockey career, Wyatt Kalynuk is considered a ‘late bloomer’.
Kalynuk’s unconventional path included a stint with the AAA midget Southwest Cougars as a 15-year-old, a season in the MJHL with his hometown club, the Virden Oil Capitals (2013-2014) as well as three years in the United States Hockey League, a Tier 1 junior circuit.
For Kalynuk, that ‘path’ was exactly what needed to happen for him because on Saturday, June 24, he received a phone call he’ll never forget.
“I was pretty excited and maybe a little shocked at first,” Kalynuk said, reflecting on being selected in the seventh round (196th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers. “It was a pretty exciting day that’s for sure.”
At 20 years of age, Kalynuk wasn’t bothered by the fact he was passed over by NHL scouts at age 18 and 19. All it did was fuel his seemingly endless drive and motivation to one day, play professionally.
“He’s had to battle and compete for all of his success and his progress as a hockey player,” said Kalynuk’s father Randy. “I think he’s happy, but he knows the work is just beginning.”
Kalynuk says for years, he was never the biggest skater on the ice, but he persevered. He credits Oil Capitals head coach and GM Troy Leslie, director of player personnel and assistant GM Chad Leslie and the rest of the Oil Caps staff for helping him turn a corner when it comes to his hockey career.
“That year in Virden was a big year for me,” he said. “They gave me a chance to play, which was huge. I kind of had a big development year that season. I thought my game kind of took off.
“I owe them a big thank you,” he added.
“Troy is an extremely good coach, he’s a good people person. I think him working with Wyatt and believing in Wyatt, good things came out of it,” Randy said. “Obviously Chad was extremely important because he also believed in him. Both were huge when it came to him growing up and believing in himself.”
The USHL noticed Kalynuk’s progress in Virden and he ended up getting drafted by the Lincoln Stars where he spent a season with that club before getting traded to the Bloomington Thunder. He says he was able to take his game to another level this past summer as he was able to bulk up, adding more muscle to his now 6-foot-1 frame.
The hard work continued to pay off for him as NCAA teams came knocking on his door recently and he ended committing to the University of Wisconsin earlier this year and will suit up for the Badgers men’s hockey team in the fall.
In the meantime, Kalynuk, currently in Madison, Wisc., is taking summer classes and will soon head to Flyers development camp, July 5-12, where he’ll don a Flyers jersey with the hopes of impressing the coaching staff.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s really an exciting time for me right now.”
Now the hard question: Was Kalynuk a Flyers fan growing up?
“My team growing up was the Bruins. My dad was a Bruins fan my whole life. I guess you can put Philadelphia in there now,” he said with a smile.
The Virden Oil Capitals would like to wish Wyatt all the best in the future.