NHL draft tracker: Ryan Pilon, Brandon Wheat Kings

Brandon blueliner Ryan Pilon is one of the WHL's top prospects in the 2015 draft. (Wheat Kings)
Brandon blueliner Ryan Pilon is one of the WHL's top prospects in the 2015 draft. (Wheat Kings)

Brandon Wheat Kings rearguard Ryan Pilon has deep hockey bloodlines. The game is ultimately a part of his family’s identity, as his uncle, Rich Pilon, spent 14 seasons in the NHL and his cousin, Garrett Pilon, is a prized prospect of the Kamloops Blazers.

“Hockey is something we take pride in as a family,” says Pilon, who is ranked 24th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service. “We’re into sports and love to play them, especially hockey. I’ve loved the game ever since I was a kid and it’s a part of our family. With my uncle and Garrett, it shows I’m not the only one in my family who loves the game.”

Pilon, 18, developed into a more polished player this year by taking the next step forward in his game. He used his mobility, good positioning and strength to keep opponents to the outside and limit their time and space on the defensive side of the puck. Offensively, he showcased his quick and accurate shot and superb passing abilities, especially when making outlet passes out of his own zone. His improved play showed up in his stats as he posted 11 goals and 52 points in 68 games following racking up 36 points the year before.

“Being a third-year guy, I wanted to take on a bigger role and have more responsibility this year,” says the Duck Lake, Sask., native. “I tried to be a player who is up in the play and creating offense while being counted on defensively. I want to be the guy who plays against other teams’ top scorers and is counted on to shut them down.”

The 6-foot-2, 207-pounder feels he’s not only developed on-ice abilities in Brandon, but also a winning attitude. He believes the guidance of Wheat Kings GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon has helped him develop a good way to approach the game.

“You go into every game expecting to win,” he says. “Kelly has done a tremendous job to have that type of winning culture here. You expect to win and it’s a huge disappointment when you don’t.”

Pilon hasn’t had to go through the draft process by himself in Brandon. His teammate, Ivan Provorov, will also don a sweater in Florida. Having the Russian defender by his side has benefited him in more ways than one.

“It’s great to get to play with him,” says Pilon. “We get along and he’s a great player on our team. And yeah, it’s nice to have someone you play with going through the draft. But for us, we’ve tried to just focus on hockey all year long and try not to pay much attention to the draft stuff.”

1. How would you describe yourself as a player?

“I’m an honest two-way defender. Someone who is counted on to play a shutdown role, but also someone who can play on the power play and play a role offensively.”

2. Do you model your game after anyone in the NHL?

“(Chicago Blackhawks defender) Brent Seabrook. He’s hard to play against in his own end and racks up some points, too. That’s the type of player that I want to be.”

3. Who is your favourite NHL team?

“The (Calgary) Flames. It’s the closest team to where I grew up and (former Flames defenceman) Robyn Regher grew up (Rosthern, Sask.) not far from where I grew up.”

4. Outside of Brandon, where’s your favourite place to play in the WHL?

“In Saskatoon and Prince Albert is fun for me because I have family around there. I also enjoy the States trip because a lot of those teams have a great atmosphere to play in.”

5. If you weren’t focused on hockey, what other sport do you feel you would be heavily involved in?

“Fastball. I played competitively before and really enjoyed it.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen