Photo credit: Garrett James Photography
Rewind to a year ago at this time and Powell River Kings forward Parker Lalonde was a young player just trying to get his feet wet and establish himself in the BC Hockey League.
He scored a goal in his first ever game in the league, so he already had that monkey off his back. After being held off the score sheet for the next two, he entered the BCHL Showcase with just the one point on the season.
For those who are not familiar, the Showcase is a four-day event where all 18 BCHL teams play two regular-season games in the same location. It acts as a hub for NHL scouts and NCAA Division I coaches to gather and evaluate the talent the league has to offer early in the season.
Needless to say, it is an important event for all players in the league, especially for those still looking for a Division I college to play at in the next phase of their careers.
In Powell River’s first game of the 2021 event, Lalonde earned the primary assist on both of his team’s goals, leading them to their first win of the regular season, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Wenatchee Wild.
He did not record a point during the second Showcase game, but seemed to find his footing in the following weeks. The first game after the event, the Aberdeen, Sask. native exploded for two goals and two assists in a win over the Coquitlam Express and really seemed to take off from there. He went on to put up 18 points in his next 16 games and eventually lead Powell River in scoring at the end of the year with 41 points and a team-high 18 goals in 53 games.
His strong season also led to a scholarship to one of the top programs in NCAA Division I hockey – Minnesota State University.
“[The Showcase] experience was unbelievable,” said Lalonde. “Getting to talk to some colleges and getting noticed early on in the season as a young guy coming in was huge.”
Now, Lalonde admits that Minnesota State was not on his radar during the Showcase. They were not one of the teams he spoke with at that time. But, once those conversations eventually started between player and school, they informed him that they first noticed his strong play at the event and decided to keep a close eye on him throughout the year.
“They reached out and got to know me and my family,” he said. “Their values lined up with what I believe and who I am as a person. You talk to people who know the school, have been down in the States and know a lot about college hockey, they tell you they do everything right there. They treat their players right. They hold you accountable. They’ll put you to work. It will be the best four years of your life.”
Now that Lalonde is committed to Minnesota State, he is often in communication with the school about his individual game. If there are areas of his play where they can give him advice, they won’t hesitate. But, they know better than to overstep and interfere with what he is being taught in Powell River.
“They’re going to stay very involved in my game,” he said. “But their big thing is that they’re not going to coach me. They’re not going to tell me which systems I should play or where I should be on the ice. They’re going to leave that to my coaches in Powell River. It’s not their job to try to coach me.”
Lalonde is 18 years old now and in the early stages of his sophomore season in the BCHL. He missed the first two weeks of play due to injury, but returned to the ice for last weekend’s home set against Coquitlam. He has plenty to focus on in Powell River and there is no set timeframe as to when he will make the jump to college, but he still lets himself feel the excitement of what the future holds.
When he looks around and sees players like Adam Eisele, Simon Tassy and Luc Wilson all making the jump this year to Minnesota State, players who were his peers in the BCHL last year, he can’t help but picture himself in the same situation.
“I was able to get down there for a visit and meet a couple of the seniors on the team this year,” said Lalonde. “They had nothing but good things to say. I got to see facilities and how the players are treated. It brings nothing but excitement and I can’t wait to get down there, whenever that is.”
Even though he has his scholarship in his back pocket, there is still pressure to perform at the Showcase. Last year, nearly every NHL team was represented with a scout at the event, so there are always more people to impress with his play. That being said, it’s a different type of pressure than Lalonde faced last year.
So, having gone through it himself, does he have any advice for a young player in the league looking to impress the college scouts for the first time?
“There’s obviously pressure, but pressure is something you can either crumble under, or use it as a slingshot to help you play better,” he said. “It’s just another game. It’s just hockey. It’s what you’ve been doing for your whole life. You love playing the game. You’re in the BCHL and at the Showcase for a reason. If you keep doing what you’re doing and show off your abilities on the ice, while playing within your team’s system and helping them win, the colleges will notice you. Just treat it like any other game and go out and have fun.”
The 2022 BCHL Showcase goes from Oct. 17 to 20 at the Chilliwack Coliseum.