Someday, when his children or grandchildren ask him where he was when the Washington Capitals selected him in the 2016 NHL draft, Garrett Pilon will dazzle them with this answer:
“I was looking for my car keys in the cushions,” Pilon said with a chuckle.
“I popped my head up and saw my name on TV.”
OK, so it wasn’t the stuff of legend and far less grandiose than Caps first-round pick Lucas Johansson sharing his big moment with his parents and NHL All-Star brother, Ryan, in the stands at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
Pilon, a 5-foot-10, 174-pound center who put up 15 goals and 32 assists in 71 games for the Kamloops Blazers last season, decided not to fly to Buffalo from his family’s home in Saskatoon because he didn’t want to be disappointed waiting for an NHL team to call his name at the draft.
So, when the Capitals took him in the third round (No. 87 overall) on Saturday, Pilon was getting ready to go to the gym, a trip delayed by his missing car keys.
Pilon celebrated his moment with his older sister and mother, then hopped in his mom’s car to inform his dad, former NHL tough guy Rich Pilon, of the good news.
Rich Pilon was having breakfast at a nearby Tim Horton’s coffee shop.
Caps fans will remember Rich Pilon as a 6-0, 216-pound, hard-hitting defenseman who fought 75 different NHL players during his 14-year career, recording 1,745 penalty minutes and eight goals in 631 games for the Islanders, Rangers and Blues.
“I have seen a couple of them and if I was on the other team I’d be a little scared,” said Garrett Pilon, who is attending this week’s Caps development camp. “I see the long hair and the broken nose and he’s ripping off his visor and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’”
That, Garrett, promises, won’t be him.
“I haven’t gotten in a fight yet,” he said. “Most of the guys I get into scrums with are 6-5, so I kind of back away. I don’t like to get into it with guys that big.”
Pilon said he was just 5-foot-2 when he was drafted by Kamloops of the Western League and has always considered himself a bit of an underdog.
Before going to Kamloops he put up 87 points in 44 games for his hometown Saskatoon Contacts.
Pilon thanked his father, now 48, for teaching him the importance of playing a 200-foot game. He also thinks he benefited from hanging around the Blues' locker room as a young boy during his father’s final NHL season with the Blues, when he remembers sitting in the stall of former goalie Fred Brathwaite and chewing bubble gum.
This week, Pilon is surrounded by 29 other Capitals prospects with the same hopes and dreams as him. On Friday they will take a tour of Verizon Center and visualize where they could be playing within a few years.
“ It’s a little bit overwhelming,” Pilon said. “It’s happened really quick. I found out I was drafted on Saturday, I was on a plane at 5:30 in the morning Sunday and I’m soaking it all in right now.
“You can really tell it’s the next level. The meetings, the detail, the work you put in. The next level is a big jump and this is an eye opener. We’re learning what it will take to get to the big leagues.
“It’s more incentive to work harder when you see all these nice rooms and nice facilities. You want to be here.”