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A little snarl goes a long way

Roblin's gritty Hawryluk gives Panthers a lot of won't-back-down

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Brandon Wheat Kings blue-liner Jayce Hawryluk plays with a definite edge, which is just what Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon wants.

TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN FILES Enlarge Image

Brandon Wheat Kings blue-liner Jayce Hawryluk plays with a definite edge, which is just what Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon wants.

Philadelphia -- Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon gave Jayce Hawryluk a guarantee and lived up to it. Tallon doesn't know it, but Hawryluk lives by a guarantee of his own. Nothing will stop him from playing in the NHL. Nothing.

No one would make the mistake of calling Hawryluk an artful skater. And he's got a temper and so far he's been labelled immature and more than a little on the edge.

But he'll find a way. Guaranteed.

The 18-year-old native of Roblin and Brandon Wheat Kings winger was selected 32nd overall in the second round Saturday at the NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, but there was little suspense for Hawryluk.

"I had a meeting with Florida on Friday and it went really well. After we talked for a little while, Dale Tallon looked across at me and stuck his hand out and said, 'If you're there at 32 when we pick in the second, you're our man.' He was true to his word," said Hawryluk.

'His interview with us on Friday -- our staff has been together for almost 12 years -- was top 10. One of the best we've ever conducted. He had us laughing. He got serious at certain points. And there was a lot of back and forth'

-- Panthers scout Scott Luce

"Now, I've got to get to work and try to get in the best shape of my life and try to make the Florida Panthers. I love playing in Brandon and I want to go as far as I can with the Wheat Kings. But it's hot in Florida and getting out of the winters in Manitoba, well, that's not a bad thing."

Hawryluk scored 24 goals and 64 points in 59 games with the Wheat Kings last season. He was suspended three times and he says his favourite player is Brad Marchand.

"He's got a great personality and we don't have that kind of player. He's hard to play against and he's incredibly strong," said Tallon.

"Our scouts didn't want me to tell him we were going to take him, because you don't want any other teams to know what you're thinking.

"But I told him and he was true to his word and kept it to himself. We're thrilled to have him. He wants to play for the Florida Panthers. He's going to add a lot to us. Edge and skill.

"He plays hard but he also has skill and can finish. Those guys are hard to find."

Panthers head amateur scout Scott Luce said Hawryluk jumped off the page in the interview process.

"His interview with us on Friday -- our staff has been together for almost 12 years -- was top 10," he said. "One of the best we've ever conducted. He had us laughing. He got serious at certain points. And there was a lot of back and forth," said Luce.

"We watched him a lot and he's a player with skill and a hardness to him. If you watch playoff hockey, guys like Jayce have success. He can add an element we don't think we have right now."

Hawryluk was fairly vibrating when he got to the media room after being selected Saturday morning, and he was peppered with questions from a pack of Florida media and a few Manitoba types.

At one point, he was asked about a scouting report suggesting he was a nasty piece of business on the ice.

"Yeah, that's right," said a smirking Hawryluk, not backing away from the comment or boastfully expanding on it. Just letting it lie there.

Hockey isn't a game won by the team with the most beautiful skaters or the best shooters or craftiest stick-handlers.

Victories go to the teams with players willing to be complete and focus on a bigger game. That's Hawryluk. He'll compete and he'll push and find a way to get the edge.

The Panthers might not have found a skills-competition winner. But they've got themselves a hockey player.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2014 B2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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