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Stettler’s Daylan Kuefler perfecting his game in final WHL season

He was drafted by the NY Islanders
Kamloops Blazers Daylan Kuefler high-fives some fans while heading off the ice. (Photo by Allen Douglas/ Kamloops Blazers)

In perhaps the biggest moment of his young hockey life, Daylan Kuefler’s agent hung up on him.

The Stettler native was watching the 2022 NHL Entry Draft with bated breath, among friends and family, not knowing if he would hear his name called or not.

He even played a game of golf earlier in the day to take his mind off the moment.

As the draft dragged on, nearly the latter stages, the 20-year-old Kamloops Blazers forward was still glued to the TV watching.

Then, a call came.

His agent had called and said, “so are you watching?”

I said, “it’s on commercial right now so no.”

“Well keep watching,” his agent said while simultaneously hanging up on Kuefler.

After the break, he saw his name up on the screen, drafted 174th overall, by the New York Islanders.

Despite not initially seeing his moment in the spotlight on national television it’s a moment he won’t forget.

“It was a pretty surreal moment and something you dream about,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words but it was a really cool experience and I’m so thankful to have that happen to me.”

In his fourth season with the Blazers, which will also be his last, Kuefler, an assistant captain, has been one of the team’s best players.

Through 26 games he’s contributed 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points, which is fourth-best on the team. This has helped lead the Blazers to third place in the Eastern Conference and first in the B.C. Division.

“As a group, I think we’re really starting to find our stride towards Christmas. It’s been an exciting year and an exciting start to the season,” he added.

The Blazers have a lot of talent within the group with forwards Caedan Bankier and Logan Stankoven leading the way offensively. Watching and Learning from those players Kuefler said has been awesome for his development.

The coaching, led by general manager and head coach Shaun Clouston has taught Kuefler a lot off and on the ice.

“They’ll teach you things you might not get in other places so I’ve got endless thanks to them for what they do for all of us players here,” he added.

Before the beginning of the season, the central Alberta athlete took part in his first NHL training camp with the Islanders. The experience was memorable for many reasons.

“You’re doing battle drills with guys that I’ve watched on TV since I was 10 years old,” he explained. “To be able to do that was pretty incredible being in the same room as them and seeing what they do on a day-to-day basis.”

Ultimately the Islanders staff decided to send Kuefler back to Kamloops to finish his final WHL season off in style. The Blazers season is unique because they’re the host city for the 2023 Memorial Cup.

“[The Islanders] thought that would be such a cool experience to be a part of to be on a winning team with a shot to win a Memorial Cup. They also wanted me to continue to grow as a player, get stronger, and faster,” Kuefler said.

Having to leave the Blazers at the end of the year he added will be a sad day since he’s learned so much and has grown as a player and person.

“I’m going to miss this place a lot. I try not to think about it yet because we got the rest of the season but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about this place,” he said.

The fans have treated Kuefler like one of their own in Kamloops and have been recognized multiple times within the community. He even had a couple of lunches paid for by fans and has had a blast getting to know members of the fan base.

Before he was a member of the Blazers, he played his U18 AAA with the Red Deer Chiefs for two seasons from 2017 to 2019. During that time he played for head coach Doug Quinn and others who were essential to his development.

“They taught me what it was like to be at the next level. They kept telling me when I did something wrong, ‘you’re not going to get away with that at the next level.’ They were right so I took lots from them,” he said.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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