When the season started for the Americans, the team had six rookies on the roster. One of those was 16-year-old defenseman Dylan Coghlan. The youngest player to make the roster, you wouldn’t guess he was a rookie by how he played throughout the season.
“I thought we had a pretty good season,” Coghlan said. “We played a good team in the playoffs. I think we’ve got a good group of guys that gelled and we’ll learn from there.”
A 2013 Bantam Draft pick, Coghlan came into rookie camp in August not sure what to expect.
“I wasn’t really too sure what I was getting into,” Coghlan said. “But once I got to camp, got on the ice and started skating, I thought I had a chance of making it. I just felt good out there.”
From there, he made the main camp roster. And after some time, he felt that he had done enough to make the team.
“I had a couple of friends on the team before and a couple of the other guys out there that were saying I looked good out there,” Coghlan said. “I felt really good at main camp and then I realized I had a good chance of making it.”
After making the team and getting through the preseason, Coghlan made his WHL debut on Sept. 21 against the Prince George Cougars. Playing at this level was a new experience for Coghlan.
“It was pretty weird playing against guys that are three or four years older than you,” Coghlan said. “I think it was a good change. It was definitely different playing against guys that were older and stronger. It took me a while to adjust but once I started practicing and got a few games under my belt, I was comfortable.”
Seven games into his WHL career, he recorded his first point and scored his first goal on Oct. 17 against Everett at the Toyota Center. In a scoreless game, the puck was passed to Coghlan at the point, firing a slap shot that hit off an Everett shin pad and ricocheted into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“I was thrilled,” Coghlan said.
He continued to gain more experience throughout November, as he played in all but one game in the month, and recorded the first assist of his career on Nov. 2 on the road against Victoria.
He played in 25 of 33 games in the first half of the regular season, scoring two goals and two assists. He said it was good experience to play against great players such as Nic Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Mathew Barzal.
Coghlan played with a lot of different defensive partners due to injury throughout the season, playing on a line with every defenseman except Brandon Carlo. The injuries allowed him to gain more experience in the second half of the season, as he played in 30 of 39 games.
The fans at the Toyota Center made an impression on Coghlan, as he loved playing in front of the Americans’ faithful. He also enjoyed going to community events, and particularly enjoyed getting to skate and teach some of the younger kids at TCAHA practices.
“The crowd was great, they’re really loud, they come out to all the community events and they are really good sports,” Coghlan said.
Towards the end of the season, the Americans were making a run for the playoffs, and it was a relief when the team finally clinched a playoff spot in the final regular season home game.
“It was a good feeling, we worked really hard for it, coming down to the final stretch with a couple teams that were fighting for one spot, we were excited as a group,” Coghlan said.
After the game, Coghlan was honored at the year-end awards as the SunWest Sportswear Rookie of the Year.
“It crossed my mind, I wasn’t really expecting to win it,” Coghlan said. “There were guys like Jordan Topping who were great all season, I was excited to get that award.”
The team faced the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the WHL Playoffs. Although the Americans were swept, Coghlan played well, tied for the team lead with three points, a goal and two assists, and led all defenseman in playoff points.
“They were playing for the Memorial Cup, it was kind of a weird feeling watching a team you played all year still playing, but it was a good feeling,” Coghlan said.
Dylan said that the biggest improvement he made to his game this year was his confidence.
“As I started playing more often, just cause of injuries, I got more opportunities to play,” Coghlan said.
The team was a close group, and Coghlan said it was good to have his good friend from home, Jordan Topping, to enjoy the rookie experience with him.
During the off-season, Coghlan is training and rehabbing to get prepared for next season. He is working hard in the gym to get bigger and stronger, because next year, he has goals to make his sophomore season even better than his rookie year.
“I’d like to have better results, it’s my draft year coming up,” Coghlan said. “I want to make a name for myself and show what I can do.”