KAMLOOPS — As Dylan Ferguson was playing the final 10 minutes of the third period in Edmonton on Tuesday night, his Blazers teammates were watching closely and following on social media with tremendous pride.
"It's pretty cool," said Garrett Pilon, who's close friends with Ferguson. "It's always a really cool experience to see one of your teammates get an opportunity like that. We're all really excited for him, really happy for him to be able to get that. When you get into an NHL game, that's a really special moment for him."
Even just two weeks in, Ferguson's ride in the NHL, mostly on the Golden Knights' bench, is giving the Blazers players hope for the future of their hockey careers.
"At the end of the day, it's not as far as these kids maybe think," said Blazers assistant coach Mike Needham. "They're good players, and hopefully if they work hard and continue to grow and develop here, then they're going to get that opportunity. I think it just gives everybody a lot of hope."
Garrett Pilon knows a little bit about getting a taste of the National Hockey League, playing in a preseason game in september for the Washington Capitals in Montreal.
He feels Ferguson will come back to Kamloops with a new swagger.
"You gain a lot of confidence," said Pilon. "You get into situations at the start when you're pretty nervous and pretty intimidated, I'd say. There's a point in the game where you get to feel comfortable. I think that's a pretty good moment for a player. So if he can get in there pretty early, then that's a big thing for him."
For Joe Gatenby, in his fifth and final year in the WHL, he's had many experiences where his former Rockets teammates were in the NHL for a time. Gatenby says it can lift a team.
"I think in Kelowna when [Leon] Draisaitl came down from the NHL, we definitely got a sense of that right away. We had a pretty old team there and we had a really hardworking, professional group," said Gatenby, who played for the Rockets from 2012-2016, losing in the Memorial Cup Final in 2015. "It really helped us to do so well down the stretch. So if you can bring a little bit of that back and it can rub off on some of the younger guys, it can only be good for this year and all the years moving forward."
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