Dylan Coghlan was disappointed last June when he was passed over in NHL draft, but the Tri-City Americans defenseman has not let that moment define him.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Coghlan, whose game is more no-frills than flashy, has come back for his third year in the Western Hockey League and put his name back on the draft tracker.
“It was terrible not to see my name called last year,” said Coghlan, a native of Nanaimo, British Columbia. “I can’t sit here and cry about it. I’m focusing on this year. I have had a couple of guys talk to me, and they have given me good feed back.”
After finishing 155th in the final Central Scouting rankings last spring, Coghlan’s stock rose to 84th in January’s midterm rankings, with good reason.
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He had four goals and 20 assists in 70 games last season, a big improvement over his rookie year, when he had two goals and five points in 55 games. This season, he has 14 goals and 46 points heading into Friday’s home game against the Prince George Cougars.
“It is a little bit of everything,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said of Coghlan’s improved play. “He is more experienced, he understands the league and what it takes to be successful. I think the main thing with Dylan is he is more consistent. He has been a good player all along for us. He’s continued to get better, accepted more responsibility, accepted more minutes, takes on challenges and pushes for more ice time.”
While Coghlan was among the top four defensemen last season, he has moved to the top pairing with veteran Parker Wotherspoon after Brandon Carlo moved on to the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
“I’ve tried to fill Brandon’s boots,” Coghlan said. “It’s hard to try and fill shoes like that — he’s in the NHL now. With him gone, I step into a bigger role and I try to set an example for the younger guys. I really look up to Parker. We live together. He helps me off the ice too. He gives me the ins and out of what it takes, and on the ice, he helps me tremendously. It’s good to have him on my side.”
Wotherspoon, who likes to join the rush and lead the charge at times, is a good defensive partner for Coghlan, according to Williamson.
“Defense is a strength of our team,” Williamson said. “Dylan has continued to improve and he has taken a big step this year. His consistency has come a long way. He is there every night defensively and adding some offense. They complement each other well. They have created chemistry and feed off each other. I think Spoons has been good for him, being able to pass the knowledge and experience and that always helps when you are able to gain that.”
After getting bypassed in the draft, Coghlan was invited to the Detroit Red Wings camp, where life at the next level opened his eyes.
“I was pretty proud of myself when I got invited,” Coghlan said. “I think I got more confidence. Going in and seeing guys like that play — it gave me a big boost to see what it takes at the next level.”
Wotherspoon noticed the difference in Coghlan’s game when they reported to camp in August.
“He’s made a lot of big steps this year, and that has come with confidence,” Wotherspoon said. “Going to an NHL camp, I know he learned a lot from that. He is playing bigger, taking the body more, doing the little things. He and Brandon are different players, but with time we have good chemistry. I think he has done a good job this year. I use him a lot. It’s good to have someone over there that is reliable. He elevates my game, as I do his.”
Coghlan knows the scouts he’s talked to this season have come primarily to watch Michael Rasmussen and Jusso Välimäki play, but along the way, they have gotten a good look at Coghlan, Morgan Geekie and Kyle Olson. It’s been good for the lot of them.
Rasmussen is sixth in the midterm rankings, while Välimäki is ninth, Geekie 50th and Olson 58th.
“I try to use that as a key in my game,” Coghlan said of the scouts. “I know they are coming to see Geeks, Razzy and Juuso, and that’s a boost for me. I have a good opportunity here.”
Williamson said he glad to see the scouts looking a little further down the roster when they come to watch the Americans play.
“His name has come up a lot,” Williamson said. “Teams brought his name up last year, and this year they are watching him and more and more. Scouts are searching for players who have slipped through the cracks, or maybe just having a good year and hitting their stride a year later. It’s a good opportunity for Cogs. A lot of what happens for him will depend on how our team does down the stretch.”