Future Huskies: Walker Hyland

BCHL defenseman Walker Hyland, from Woodbury, Minnesota, is next in our weekly Future Huskies series. Hyland played a key role on some strong Woodbury Royals teams during his high school years. In his sophomore year, the Royals made it to the state tournament after blowing out top-seeded Rosemount 8–2. Even then, Hyland was getting regular minutes for the Royals, helping them get a chance to play at Xcel Energy Center. In his junior year, Woodbury entered the Section 3AA tournament as the top seed after going 20–3–2 during the regular season. They fell short after being upset by Apple Valley in the Section semifinals. In his senior year, Hyland was second on the team in scoring behind current Minnesota State forward Max Gaede. His 9 goals and 19 assists helped the Royals to the Section 3AA Finals where they again met Apple Valley and once again, Hyland and Woodbury could not get past the Eagles.

After his high school career, the 5'10" Hyland found a home in the NAHL where he started the 2010–11 season with the Fresno Monsters. Less than twenty games before the NAHL playoffs, Hyland was traded to the Texas Tornados. He finished his time in the NAHL with 13 goals and 24 assists in 61 games. His efforts in the NAHL got him a chance to participate in the Waterloo Black Hawks' USHL camp prior to the 2011–12 season, where he turned some heads but didn't stick. He moved on to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the BCHL, where he's been having a pretty good season for the Bulldogs despite their struggles. They changed coaches in mid-December and since then Hyland's really come alive offensively with seven goals. His new coach, Kevin Willison, talked to Tech Hockey Guide just five games after taking over the Bulldogs but was full of praise for Hyland:[quote]This is what I have seen so far in him: he is a competitor, works hard in practice and is a very offensive minded, loves to jump up into the play. Someday he may quarterback the power play.[/quote]

Coach Pearson had similar things to say when Walker Hyland officially signed his National Letter of Intent:[quote]Walker's an excellent skater with very good offensive capabilities. We look forward to him adding offense from the blue line as well as playing solid defense.[/quote]

During the January 30 edition of the Mel Pearson Show, Pearson was asked whether any incoming defensemen have the chance to crack top four or top six next year? Here was his response about Walker Hyland:[quote]At this point we are bringing in one defenseman. I'm not sure he'll have the ability to crack our top four but he'll compete for a top six spot, no question.[/quote]

Coach Whitten also had positive things to say:[quote]Walker will continue to upgrade our skating and puck skill on the blue line. He’s a very mobile defenseman with a great stick who can make a great first pass. He’ll be able to quarterback the power play. He’s having a good year on team that is struggling a bit out in Alberni Valley.[/quote]

Hyland will join the Huskies as a 21-year-old freshman and as Coach Pearson said, he'll be joining an already deep defensive core that currently includes 10 players, none of whom are seniors. Since the GLI loss to Boston College, the Huskies have started the same six defenseman so it should be interesting to see how often Hyland finds his way into a game.

Here’s our interview with Walker Hyland:

THG: You’ve made your decision to play college hockey at Michigan Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Husky?[quote]As a 20-year-old now, I knew I was going to have to make my decision this year. I got an opportunity to check out the campus and everything this summer, so that part of it was already taken care of and when I got an offer from Michigan Tech, it was a no brainer for me with the academic aspect and the hockey.[/quote]

THG: Did you make your official visit to Houghton? If so, who showed you around and what were your impressions of Houghton and Michigan Tech? [quote]Dan Sova lives near me, so this summer he drove me up there. He showed me his house he lived in and showed me a little bit around town. Then coach Damon Whitten toured me around the campus and showed me the rink and the dressing room and all that good stuff. I loved [the school], I liked how it’s not in a big city, like some other schools are. It kind of made me feel more at home, like up north Minnesota with some woods, and being on the river. I just kind of like the atmosphere, you could say.[/quote]

THG: Who else was recruiting you? Did you have any other offers? When did teams start to show interest in you? [quote]Yeah, I had a couple offers, I had some schools out east talking to me with some offers and also a couple schools closer to home, but I think Michigan Tech was definitely the right decision. It was close to home, so my parents are going to be able to watch a lot of the games.[/quote]

THG: The Huskies made a change to bring in Mel Pearson with his 23 years of experience next to Red Berenson at Michigan. How much did he play a role in your decision? How did the recruiting process go for you? [quote]Last year, I was talking to coach Whitten a little bit. The coaching change had not been made when I visited this summer. Actually, coach Pearson was just moving in to Houghton so I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but I’ve only heard great things about coach Pearson and I’m looking forward to playing for him next season.[/quote]

THG: You mentioned the academics played a role in your decision, do you know what you want to study at Michigan Tech? [quote]As of right now, business management.[/quote]

THG: You played high school hockey for a pretty good Woodbury team, your senior year your team made it to the section finals, losing to Apple Valley and your sophomore year, your team made it to the state tournament. What was the best part of your high school hockey career? [quote]Definitely going to the state tournament my sophomore year. I was a younger player but I played a pretty big role on the team. It was pretty neat getting play in front of 18,000 fans and your whole high school shows up. That was a great experience there.[/quote]

THG: What was it like winning the sectional final to go to the state tournament?[quote]I think that year we were the #2-ranked team so we were looking to beat the #1 team, and we ended up blowing them out in the final game. We kind of had them after the second period. It was a great feeling knowing we were heading to the state tournament.[/quote]

THG: How did a kid from Woodbury, Minnesota, end up in Alberni Valley, playing for a BCHL team? [quote]Well, I started off the year in Waterloo in the USHL. Things didn’t work out there with the 20-year-old rule. I had the coaching staff there and some of the guys I work out with in the summer, they helped me find a home here in the BCHL.[/quote]

THG: You’ve really seemed to blossom offensively since the coaching change in Alberni Valley. How do you like playing for your new coach, Kevin Willison? [quote]I like it a lot. We have a really young defensive core right now. I’m the only 20-year-old defenseman on the team now so he’s really looking up to me to be a leader and help him develop some of these younger [defensemen] for the years to come. I think that’s a reason he kept me at the trade deadline, to help him out with the team.[/quote]

THG: I know you’ve been talking with another future Husky, Alex Petan. Have you been talking to any other future teammates and what have you guys been talking about? [quote]It’s just a facebook message every once in a while, talking about how excited we are to get to play college hockey next year. When we actually play each other it’s more business, we don’t actually get to talk on the ice too much. I also to Dan Sova a little bit just because I’ve known him. He tells me nothing but good things.[/quote]

THG: All the coaches I spoke to about you say the same thing. You’re an excellent skating defenseman with a lot of offensive upside and they all think you’ll end up quarterbacking the power play if you continue to progress. What do you think of that? [quote]I kind of think of myself that way too. I’m good at making that first quick pass, if a coach wants me to take shots from the point, I think I can do that too. The thing that I like is to generate some offense.[/quote]

THG: What do you think is your biggest weakness? Something you’ll need to work on to become a better player at the college level? [quote]It’s going to be a lot faster obviously in college hockey, so maybe working on getting back to pucks quick, just doing everything a step quicker, always having my head on a swivel, and just making that first pass quicker, moving my feet out of the d-zone.[/quote]

THG: What about the defensive aspect of the game? Can you shut down the other team’s scorers? [quote]You know, I think can and that is definitely something I’ll need to work on playing college hockey. Maybe some in-front-of-the-net battles, like boxing out, that’s probably something I need to work on a little bit more, but I definitely think I will be able to develop and do that.[/quote]

THG: Anything you want Michigan Tech fans to know? [quote]Just that I’m excited for next year. Ever since I can remember I’ve been waiting to play in the WCHA, play college hockey.[/quote]