It's never easy leaving home at any age, let alone as a teenager. But sometimes, an opportunity so great presents itself it's impossible to say no.
That's the situation NY Islanders prospect Daylan Kuefler, selected in the 7th round (174th overall) of the 2022 NHL Draft, was presented with at just 14 years old when former Arizona Coyotes great and current part-owner of the Kamloops Blazers, Shane Doan, invited Kuefler to live with him and his family during Doan's final NHL season.
During the second intermission of Tuesday night's Memorial Cup round-robin game between the Quebec Remparts and the Peterborough Petes, Doan joined the TSN crew during the second intermission to discuss what it means for the city to host the tournament and his experience having Kuefler spend so much time around him and his family.
Kuefler's father, Mike, and Doan played a season together with the Killam Wheat Kings and continued their relationship past their playing days. The impact Mike left on Doan was enough for Doan to offer his friend's son the opportunity to play with the Junior Coyotes during his Bantam draft year. Daylan and his family took Doan up on the opportunity, with Daylan gaining experience playing in the United States and spending a year around the Coyotes locker room, seeing what it takes to become an NHLer.
“That’s a pretty hard experience to say no to,” said Kuefler in a phone call with Kamloops This Week at Blazers training camp in 2019. “Even learning what it takes to be a pro, the commitment and the dedication that he put in, was huge for me. And coming to camp now and realizing, OK, I have to do all this stuff if I want to succeed as well as he did.”
Being part-owner of the Blazers, Doan may have had something to do with Kuefler being selected by Kamploops in the tenth round of the 2017 WHL Prospects Draft.
“Shane said there is one guy I’d really like you to draft if you’ve got an opportunity,” Blazers GM Stu MacGregor said in 2019. “He says, ‘I know the family, and he’s lived with us in Phoenix, playing hockey this past year, but I know he can play in the Western league,’ so we took Shane at his word and drafted him. We hadn’t seen him previous to that.”
This year, Kuefler put together a 61-point season in 54 games, making Doan's suggestion well worth the selection. Kuefler has done everything asked of him this year, heading into the final few games of his WHL career, as he's set to join the Bridgeport Islanders next season after signing a three-year entry-level contract (ELC) in May.
“He’s the type of kid that will go down the ice, slash you in the back of the legs, you turn around, punch him in the head, and he falls down and draws a penalty,” Doan said. “The next time he comes down the ice, he slashes you in the back of the legs, you turn around and punch him in the head, he drops his gloves and beats you up. The next time he comes on the ice, he completely ignores you and goes in and scores a goal.
Last night, the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Kuefler's Blazers 6-1 to advance to the Memorial Cup semifinal. Kamloops (1-2) will now take on the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough (1-2) Thursday night, with the winner meeting Seattle in the semifinal game on Friday.