Merritt Centennials defenceman Talon Zakall broke out in a big way last year in his sophomore season in the BCHL. The 18-year-old jumped to 29 points compared to 10 in his rookie year.
He especially stood out once he earned the opportunity to lineup on the team’s number-one defensive pair after the Centennials moved players out at the trade deadline.
His strong play did not go unnoticed as he started to receive some buzz for the 2020 NHL Draft in some circles.
Zakall broke down his thoughts around his strong season last year, getting a Division I scholarship and the draft.
BCHL: You had a strong year last year, but you really seemed to excel after the trade deadline when you were playing top-pair minutes. How were you able to take advantage of that opportunity?
Zakall: I’ve had two great coaches here in Merritt so far. I got a lot of opportunity last year. With our team struggling a little bit, we had to get rid of some of our veteran guys, so it gave me an opportunity to get a little more ice time and I benefitted from it. It was definitely different. My first year, I didn’t play a whole lot. I only got a few minutes a night. As the year went on, I felt more comfortable and I was slowly building towards that role. When I was told that was going to be my role after the deadline, I said okay and took it and ran with it. I did the best I could.
BCHL: Last season you were named the BCHL High School Player of the Month for November. Why is education so important to you?
Zakall: In the BCHL, education is really important. They put schooling first. All of our goals as BCHL players is to go on to play Division I hockey. If hockey doesn’t end up working out for you, you always have a career to fall back on. It’s just an awesome opportunity to continue to excel as a hockey player, get a couple more years at a high level playing Division I hockey and you get a great education on top of that.
BCHL: You haven’t committed to an NCAA school yet, but I imagine that is a goal for you this coming year. With your emphasis on education, will you be looking at schools that are more known for that side of things?
Zakall: I haven’t really decided. I’m not really sure what I want to do career-wise. I’m just going to get a feel for whatever program it is that I choose to go to and go from there. If it’s a hockey school, then it’s a hockey school. I love hockey. It’s why I’m here today. If it’s a school that excels in education, then that’s great as well.
BCHL: Your strong finish last year led to you receiving some buzz for the 2020 NHL Draft. What was it like to hear that?
Zakall: It’s unbelievable. I think it’s what every kid dreams of. I never thought I would be in the position I’m in now. Just to be considered is an honour. I’m really grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way – my family, my coaches, my teammates. It’s just an incredible feeling.
BCHL: In your offseason training and your preparation for the coming season, do you allow your self to think about the draft? Or is it something you just try to keep out of your mind?
Zakall: It’s something I try to ignore. I just want to play my game, improve every year and be a better player and teammate. I’m always going to put my head down and grind in the offseason. It definitely gives me a little extra motivation, but I just try to push it to the side and focus on myself for the time being.
BCHL: If you were to describe yourself as a player to an NHL team that was interested in selecting you, what would you say?
Zakall: I’m an offensive defenceman that likes to jump up in the rush and start the offence. I’m going to be a two-way defenceman as well. I’m not going to be lazy and hang out in the offensive zone. I’m going to get back and play defence, block shots and do whatever it takes to help the team get a win.
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