WNY Hockey Prospects

My Story: A Conversation With Dylan Seitz

 
The frigid months of a Western New York winter are not for everyone. From early December through late March, most of the residents of Rochester and Buffalo, New York lock themselves in the warm confines of their homes, avoiding the painfully cold weather that sits in waiting, just a few inches from their own front door. Those people are not hockey players.
 
Almost every day of the week during those winter months you are likely to find creeks, ponds, lakes and rinks all across Western New York populated with kids of all ages, playing the same game, and all with the same dream. Playing in the NHL.
 
Growing up thirty minutes south of Buffalo in Eden, NY, Dylan Seitz was one of those kids, with that same dream. But Eden, NY is a very small farm town. Just far enough outside of Buffalo to avoid the same hockey-mad underpinnings many towns to it’s north are known for, in Eden, NY hockey wasn’t always the priority.
 

“Growing up in Eden was different for sure, but it was never something I didn’t like. My school was very small compared to many of my hockey friends who went to bigger public schools. In a small farm town not too many people knew about hockey.”

 
Like most kids, Dylan started playing hockey with the team closest to home, in this case, the Hamburg Hawks. With four boys in his family all playing hockey for the Hawks, the choice was obvious for Dylan who spent much of his time growing up on the ice at the Nike Base Arena in Hamburg, NY.
 

 
It didn’t take long for Dylan’s talent to be noticed by people outside of the Hamburg Hawks organization and Dylan soon found himself with a new organization, and a new team, joining the nationally respected Buffalo Regals for his 14U season in 2013 – 2014. The move to the Regals proved to be very beneficial for Dylan’s development.
 

“That season was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey. Many of the guys on that Regals team are still my best friends to this day and some of those guys I still talk to almost every day. On top of the serious bond we all had that season, our team was very skilled and I thought there was something special about us that year. We were a serious contender for the National Championship but unfortunately we fell just short, getting snubbed by Team Wisconsin during overtime of the national quarterfinals.”

 

 
After his season with the Regals, Dylan caught the eye of another nationally respected program when the Buffalo prep powerhouse Nichols School came calling. Nichols has an incredibly impressive list of NHL alumni, boasting names like Peter Ciavaglia, Jeff Farkas, Scott Thomas, Chris Mueller & Brooks Orpik as well as current NHL hopefuls Sean Malone (Rochester Americans, AHL) and Andrew Poturalski (Charlotte Checkers, AHL). For Dylan, the move to Nichols was exactly what he needed both in the classroom and on the ice.
 

“Nichols is such a highly respected school and not just in Buffalo, but across the whole country and there were a number of reasons I chose to attend Nichols. Obviously playing for the hockey team was a great opportunity for me to prove myself against competition a few years above my age group, but aside from hockey, going to school at Nichols was an opportunity I couldn’t turn away. At Nichols the classroom was always more important than hockey and that was something I was told as soon as I arrived on campus. At Nichols, if your grades aren’t where they should be, you wont play and that’s motivation enough.”

 
The opportunity at Nichols was not something Dylan took for granted. Although he was only 15 years old, he excelled on the ice all season and a number of USHL and OHL scouts took notice. Following his 2014 -2015 season with Nichols, Dylan was was selected by both Kitchener Rangers in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection as well as the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the 2015 USHL Futures Draft.
 
Although he was honored to have been selected in the USHL Draft, being selected by an OHL franchise was always a dream for Dylan. Surprisingly, it was a dream he came incredibly close to missing out on first-hand.
 

“I wasn’t sure how draft day was going to go. Although I did watch the whole thing, once the last round started, I turned it off and started walking up to my room and that’s when my phone started to vibrate. It was a call from the Kitchener Rangers telling me that they had drafted me. It meant a lot to me because I had never seen my Dad so happy and proud. It was really something special to experience.”

 

 
Simply being selected by a team in the USHL or OHL draft is an incredible honor. What many people do not know however is that every year, both the USHL and OHL drafts are quite literally filled with players who never make it to the next level. The path of a player’s entire hockey future is often decided at exactly this point in their career. Long before the dream of hearing their name called at the NHL draft is even a possibility, many players make career altering decisions about their future much earlier than they need to. For Dylan, that decision was something both he and his family were in no hurry to make as Dylan chose to stay home and play Junior A hockey the following season with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
 

“It was a really hard decision to leave Nichols. My one year there was something I never thought I would have experienced but I knew that leaving was what was best for my hockey career and development as a player. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college or Major Junior and moving up and playing Junior A gave me both options. During my year of Junior A, I learned a lot about myself as a person and as a hockey player and it made the decision to go Major Junior easier.”

 
During the summer of 2016, and following his 2015 – 2016 season with the Jr. Sabres, Dylan signed with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. The Rangers reputation as a highly respected organization not only in the OHL, but across the entire Canadian Hockey League, was ultimately the deciding factor for both Dylan and his parents.
 

 
Even though moving to Kitchener was the best decision for Dylan, it was not without it’s own share of life changes and adjustments. For American players moving on to the OHL, life outside of the rink is almost always the biggest adjustment.
 

“Moving away from home was definitely different. I moved into a house with no siblings and complete strangers and it was certainly something different for me. I think the hardest part was not having my brothers around. As much as you want to kill them sometimes, until they aren’t around, you don’t realize how much you appreciate them. Thankfully, I was set up with a great billet family that made my transition away from home much easier.”

 
During his first season with Kitchener, Dylan saw a very respectable amount action, tallying 8 goals and 10 assists for 18 points while playing in 60 regular season games. His ice-time and usage in Kitchener however, seemed more in line with a third or fourth line checking forward and penalty killer, despite his consistent history producing points as a Top 6 or scoring line forward. As Dylan explains, making the adjustment to play at the OHL level was very much an uphill battle.
 

“I thought going from Nichols to the Jr. Sabres was a significant jump, but the change in play from the OJHL to the OHL was even bigger. There is a big learning curve and it comes with lots of ups and downs. You have to be just as strong mentally as you are physically and for a 17 year old kid in a city where everyone in town is watching your every move, it’s a lot to embrace. I learned to just enjoy it and tried not to worry about things that were out of my control and just play hockey like I had always done.”

 
What Dylan did not know however was that his first season in Kitchener would inevitably be his last. This past summer, during a preseason game with Rangers, Dylan suffered a shoulder injury during a fight and was forced to sit out a significant amount of time while rehabbing the injury. Once he was healthy and ready to return, the Rangers sent his rights to the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. Although he was caught completely off-guard by the move, Dylan kept a positive outlook about the the trade.
 

“I had no idea the trade was coming. One day you think you’ll spend your junior hockey career in one organization and the next day you’re packing your bags to move fifteen hours away from home to another team. That’s the way it works sometimes and you just have to look at it as another opportunity, a fresh start, and that’s how I looked at it. I was leaving a team where I didn’t have much of a chance to move up the lineup to a entirely new team, in a new league. Everything was new to me and it was exactly the fresh start that I needed. I’ve been nothing but happy about the move.”

 
Much like he has done throughout his entire hockey career, Dylan Seitz moved to a new organization, and excelled. Having no problem adjusting to the QMHJL game, Dylan tallied 8 points over his first 11 games. Despite his early success, he quieted anyone who may have questioned the Wildcats move to acquire him when on October 28, 2017, Seitz put a hat trick on the score sheet at home against the Victoriaville Tigres, including the game winning goal. As of today, Dylan has 12 goals and 9 assists for 21 points in 32 QMJHL games.
 

 
After his first season in Kitchener, the NHL Central Scouting Services ranked Dylan #123 among North American Skaters for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. A number of scouts and people around the Kitchener Rangers and the OHL community I spoke with were expecting him to be a late round pick in the draft but Dylan ultimately went unselected. Not surprisingly, his response to this early setback was nothing motivation for him to work harder, and to get better.
 

“As I’ve said before there are a lot of ups and downs in a hockey career and this was just another one for me. Yes, I was extremely disappointed about not being selected but I didn’t let it kill me because I knew it wasn’t the end of the road. There are players that get drafted the second time around or players that sign as free agents at development camps every year. Not everyone is going to be an NHL draft pick. It’s just part of the process and it just makes it a better story better to tell when you eventually make it in the end.”

 
This summer Dylan Seitz will again be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. Whether he is selected or not, nothing is likely to change anything for Dylan. Being drafted won’t change who he is, or how hard he works at his game.
 
For Dylan Seitz, the dream is the same today as it will be tomorrow. It’s the same dream every little kid who puts on a pair of skates on those same creeks, ponds, lakes and rinks have always had. Playing in the NHL.
 

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