2020 has already been a revelation for Vernon Vipers defenseman Trey Taylor.
The 17-year-old played in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Top Prospects game on Tuesday, Jan. 14, taking part in a 6-4 win for Team West over their eastern counterparts. Two days later his name appeared on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings for the 2020 NHL entry draft.
To cap that off, on Saturday he committed to Clarkson University, A Division I school in the U.S. and the seventh ranked team in the nation.
It’s been an exciting two weeks for a player who has flown under the scouting radar until this point, and he has plenty more milestones in his sightlines.
“Getting invited to the prospects game was a huge honour,” said Taylor following the game in Hamilton, Ont. that saw the top 20 prospects in western Canada take on the top 20 from the east.
“The talent there was just remarkable, (it was) all NHL draft prospects pretty much. It was crazy to see the way some guys can shoot the puck, the way some guys can skate, and everyone’s hockey IQ was amazing out there … guys were always in the right spots and they knew where to find you.”
Taylor was one of eight BCHL players to make the prospects game. Another of those players was Danny Weight of the Penticton Vees, who is scoring at a point-per-game pace in the BCHL this season and had a goal and an assist in Hamilton.
When asked who the best player at the prospects game was, Taylor mentioned his divisional rival.
“He’s just super intelligent with the puck and he’s got silky mitts,” he said of Weight. “He found me on the back door one time, the puck just sort of bobbled on my stick. But most guys don’t really see that play so he was a really good guy to play with.”
The two didn’t have to wait long before meeting again. The Vipers played the Vees on the night following the prospects game, and both players spent the day travelling to Vernon to join their teams after a few hours sleep.
“I just tried to keep it simple and not try to do too much out there,” Taylor said. “I think we were both pretty tired. He texted me after the game to tell me how gassed he was. I was pretty gassed too when the overtime came.”
The Vipers put in a solid effort against those division-leading Vees but lost 2-1 in overtime.
While honoured to be recognized as one of the top prospects in the CJHL, Taylor knows it’s just one step, and there are many more to go.
“It’s a special feeling, but it’s just the beginning of the work. I’ve got to keep working hard if I want my dream to come true in June.”
June is a special month in the world of hockey, particularly for junior players. It’s the month of the NHL draft, and having been ranked 189th overall on the Central Scouting list (fourth highest out of five BCHL players to make the cut), Taylor is hoping to have a big second half to the season and to ultimately hear his name called on draft day.
“It’s a really big goal of mine,” he said, adding that another goal is to get bigger and stronger to improve his chances of catching the attention of an NHL team.
But with the Vipers heading into the final stretch of their season, those goals remain secondary.
“My first goal this year is to win in the playoffs with my team,” said Taylor. “I try to put my team before myself, and I think we have a team capable of winning in the playoffs.”
The Vipers are on a mini-slump after the OT loss to Penticton and a 5-1 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night. But Taylor says as long as the team stays true to its identity, they’ll be making noise come playoff time.
“I think we can out-work any team, and when we do that and play a hard game we thrive.”