Photo by Rena Laverty
Being a role model is something that Dylan Peterson takes to heart. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that he was the young kid looking up to his heroes on the ice.
“Life is all about setting examples for others,” he said. “For kids that play hockey, and we even get to go out and skate with them sometimes, it’s cool to see the smiles on their faces. Kids nowadays will ask for an autograph on anything whether it’s my head, or my shirt or my forehead. It’s really cute. It’s nice to be a role model for kids like that.
“When I was a kid, I always liked meeting guys who played hockey even if they were a few years older than me. I still would look up to them and think, one day I want to be like you.”
Now, Peterson is one of those older guys. He’s found his hockey home with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and is enjoying the bond formed with his Under-18 teammates.
“We built such a great connection over the year and a half we have been here so far,” Peterson said. “It’s a bond you really can’t break. You can see it both on and off the ice. People have told our coaches that we have this certain bond so when we are playing tougher teams, it really translates for us. These guys are like brothers to me.”
Along with his teammates, the 6-foot-4, 192-pound forward applied lessons learned in May training to prepare him for his U18 season. It should be no surprise that Peterson is seeing a big difference on the ice this season.
“The competitive level of it,” he said. “Playing older, faster and stronger guys, it’s just another level of hockey. It’s just like every other year but it’s more serious.
“I came in as a Bambi. I was pretty much skin and bones. I have put on a lot of muscle and that is all thanks to our trainers, starting with Brian and Will. Those guys have helped me take my game to the next level. Especially last year, in spring training, we got really competitive with hex bar deadlifts. It’s really cool to see not only do you want to get bigger and stronger but it’s great to have a friendly competition with your teammates, like who can pull the most weight.”
Of course, being well prepared doesn’t mean he didn’t have some nerves the first time he stepped out onto the ice for the first college game this season — an Oct. 5 game against Northern Michigan University.
“I remember last summer, I was thinking about it — wow, we are playing colleges,” said Peterson. “This is crazy. The first game we go out there and run through the motions. You don’t realize what is going on. It’s a quick snap and the game is over. You are blacked out the whole time. You get used to it. Just like last year, when you are playing the USHL teams, it’s the same thing.”
For Peterson, part of that seriousness is the fact that he already had the opportunity to play his future college team — the Boston University Terriers on Jan. 3. Despite dropping a 4-3 overtime decision at home, it was a great experience for him once he got over some nerves.
“You get used to playing colleges over the year,” he said. “I stopped having the butterflies and the anxiety but that game it all came back. I was worried about everything. When they called my name to go out for the starting lineup, I was thinking I’m going to fall, or something will go terribly wrong.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“Overall, it was a great experience all-around. It was nice to have a couple of face-off draws, and then Vlas [former NTDP blueliner and current BU freshman Alex Vlasic] and a few other guys would give me a tap on my shin pads.”
There was no question in Peterson’s mind once he visited BU that it was the place that he wanted to go to continue his hockey career.
“The downtown — you are in Boston and you can’t go wrong. After seeing that, it was a no brainer. It’s a beautiful city,” he said.
He understands the advantage he will have next season by playing collegiate opponents now.
“That is such an advantage that our players get,” Peterson said. “It is something that we can take into next year, knowing how to deal with it and how to handle it. It is a huge plus. You can’t go wrong with playing the college games before you go to school."
For Peterson, not only has he played the college games, he had an opportunity to play in the BioSteel All-American Game on Jan. 20 at USA Hockey Arena. It was a once in a life-time opportunity for him as he was part of Team Knuble, earning a 6-1 win.
“It was a great opportunity for everyone on the ice,” said Peterson, who picked up an assist. “You get a chance to showcase what you've got against the next best guys and why teams should pick you come June. It’s cool because we get to be a team on this one, against another team. It was so much fun.”
Coming off their second international tournament in the Czech Republic, Peterson is focused on the current moment and his next steps, which includes making Team USA in April for the 2020 Under-18 World Championship.
“It’s tough; it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “Thinking about the moment and what you need to do on a day-to-day basis, really helps me. I try to be the best version of myself every day. I hope for the best at the end of the year.”
At the end of the day, just as kids see him as a role model for wearing the USA jersey, Peterson feels fortunate to get the chance to do so.
“It’s something that I’m incredibly blessed to do,” he said. “There is no feeling like it to be able to put the crest on every day and represent my family, my teammates, my coaches, and everyone. You are always getting people looking up to you because of the logo. It is way bigger than us. It’s a great experience.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.