Kelowna’s Dustin Sylvester may have found the European lifestyle a little different than he was used to last season but when it came to hitting the ice, it was business as usual for the former high scoring Western Hockey Leaguer.
Playing in Germany’s second division, Sylvester led Freiburg in goals when he tallied 35 snipes in his first season overseas.
And that turned into a ticket back to North America for the 5-foot-8, 180 pound Kelowna Minor Hockey product who has signed a one year contract with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL, the minor league team of the Calgary Flames.
“I had a good year personally but our team wasn’t that good,” said Sylvester this week as he continued off season preparations for the upcoming hockey season. “I played with good players so that helped me. It’s more of a skilled game over there with the bigger ice so I enjoyed it.”
Sylvester’s scoring prowess led to a couple of offers to return to Europe—this time in Germany’s top league the DEL—but when an offer was tendered by the Abbotsford Heat it was enough to coax Sylvester back from overseas.
“I liked it in Europe but from talking to guys that were playing there I figured if I’m going to give it shot over here (North America) I might as well do it while I’m still young,” he said. “It’s the closest I could have gotten to home so that’s a bit of a change. My family will be able to see me play which will be nice.”
Sylvester will be even closer to home beginning this weekend when he joins other prospects from the Flames organization at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton. Other teams involved in the tournament, which runs Sept. 11 to 15 at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, are the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I know a bunch of the guys that are playing on other teams that I haven’t played against so I’m looking forward to it.”
For the former five year veteran of the WHL, the Young Stars tournament will be the start of a new journey as he looks to climb within the Flames organization with the end goal being playing in the NHL.
“I’m just going to go in with the mindset that I’m going to make the team in Abbotsford,” he said. “I’ve had to overcome things my whole life with people telling me I’m too small but I’m going to go in there and play the way I play and see what happens.”
While Dustin gets set to try and make the AHL team in Abbotsford, his younger brother Cody is getting set for another season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Cody is coming off a season where he had 32 points in 59 games as an 18-year-old with the Hitmen and is back in Calgary as a 19-year-old.
Even when he was playing in Germany, Dustin was able to keep an eye on his younger brother.
“I paid quite a bit of attention to Cody’s game,” he said. “I was always checking the WHL web site and we stayed in touch. He’s doing pretty well for himself and I’m pretty proud of him.”