(Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) Dryden Hunt dominated the Western Hockey League during his 20-year-old season.
Hunt became the first Moose Jaw Warrior to win the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as Player of the Year after leading the league with 58 goals and finishing with 116 points in 72 games.
That stellar season earned him a three-year entry level contract with the Florida Panthers.
Hunt spent the 2016-17 season in the American Hockey League with the Panthers’ affiliate, Springfield Thunderbirds. He said he learned a lot about what it takes to play at the pro level over the course of that season.
“It was a bit of a transition for sure,” he said. “One of the things is that the pro level is so fast nowadays and that’s one thing that I’ve always had to work on, so I’m trying to work on my foot speed this summer.”
While last season was a big learning experience, Hunt said that he was well prepared for professional hockey by Warriors head coach Tim Hunter.
“Tim does a great job of preparing you for the pro lifestyle,” he said. “Everybody knows what he’s done over his career, so he tries to do a good job of preparing guys for it.”
In 70 games with the Thunderbirds, Hunt scored 13 goals and posted 31 points. He also played in two games with the Manchester Monarchs in the East Coast Hockey League, scoring two goals.
With a year under his belt at the pro level, he said he’s hoping to head into the Panthers’ training camp this year with more confidence and try to make some noise.
“Your first pro camp is kind of intimidating, so that factored into a lot of things last year, but this year I’ll be going in there with a good mindset and try to make some noise,” said Hunt.
Watching his former linemate, Brayden Point, have the success that he did with the Tampa Bay Lightning has motivated Hunt as well.
“It should give a lot of guys a lot of confidence,” he said. “It obviously didn’t come easy for Pointer, he worked super hard for that and had a great prospect camp, main camp and exhibition games, but it was so fun to see what he did last year.”
Hunt will be heading to Panthers’ training camp next month.