Closing out FlamesNation’s lengthy prospect interview series is a guy with a familiar name to Calgary hockey fans – Dustin Sylvester.
A native of Kelowna, and older brother of Calgary Hitmen forward Cody Sylvester, Dustin racked up 252 points in 308 games with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. Undrafted and looking to play pro, he headed to Europe to suit up for EHC Freiburg of Germany’s secondary league. He put up 60 points in 48 games and earned a look-see from the Flames organization in the form of a camp try-out in Abbotsford.
He stuck around, earning a contract and putting up 34 points in 64 games. He recently signed a second AHL deal with the Heat and will continue his quest for an NHL contract. He spoke with FlamesNation’s Ryan Pike at development camp earlier this month.
Ryan Pike: Last year you went into camp on a try-out, but this year you’ve already inked an AHL contract. Does this change how you’ll approach this season?
Dustin Sylvester: Not at all. It’s nice coming in having that year under my belt. But you know, you’ve got to come in every year and I’m obviously still going to work as hard as I can to make Abbotsford and in this organization they’ve always told us for the last year that no one has a for-sure spot. I’m going to approach it just like I did last year and work as hard as I can and do everything I can do earn a spot in Abbotsford.
RP: You played a year in Germany and had good numbers, but there was some doubt about the quality of the league. Does having a year in the AHL under your belt with the performance you had boost your confidence a bit?
DS: Yeah, I think so, for sure. Every time you can get a year of pro under your belt, I think you get a lot more confident. I know I feel pretty confident out here. Going over to Europe, I don’t think was a mistake on my part. I didn’t really have anything over here and that was kind of just a step in my career. I did what I had to do, went over there and I got what I wanted to come back here. Hopefully this year works out the same and I can keep things going here.
RP: Have you spoken with Mark Giordano about his European experiences?
DS: No, I never had a chance [to talk] with him, but I’ve talked to a lot of guys from Kelowna and stuff like that that have been over to Europe and come back. A lot of guys, they like to give it a shot over here first, but I think Europe is always an option to go over there. There’s so many leagues and teams over there, but I’m really happy to be back here.
RP: Have you set any goals for yourself and for your role on the Heat going forward?
DS: Ever since I’ve been a little kid, that’s my goal to get that NHL contract. I’m one step closer this year. Last year I was put in a pretty good role in Abbotsford, played top two lines and hopefully I can do that again this year and produce a little bit more offensively and go to the hard areas a lot more this year.
RP: With so many new faces in Abbotsford next year, how are you approaching the season?
DS: We lost a few guys, with [Rheault] and Jessiman up front, but I know we’ve got Ben Street coming in. And we’ve got [Paul] Byron and Akim [Aliu] back, so I think last year near the end of the year, lines starting clicking quite a bit. We’ve got a good core group of guys coming back, so it’d be nice if we can start off the year with everyone clicking again.