Garland's 'Nothing Written In Stone' Training Camp Approach

Success stories can have a profound impact.

On the player, on the fans that witnessed the journey, on the team that thoroughly invested in its belief.

Conor Garland's introduction to the Coyotes' NHLroster last season was one that exemplified resolve and persistence. It shone the rewards that come with prioritizing those principles to achieve a dream.

Making his Coyotes debut on December 8, 2018 after two-and-a-half seasons in the American Hockey League, the 5'10' 165 lbs. forward immediately earned a nightly role with his tenacious play, providing the Coyotes a shot in the arm with his energy and production.

He scored 13 goals and added five assists in 47 NHL games.

His hustle drew the affection of fans, his will to disrupt opposition in and around its net bred the confidence of coaches. His work ethic evoked praise.

And this summer, his desire to work continued.

"I feel like I prepared well these past few months to come in here and have a good camp, to earn another job," he said, following his second training camp skate. "I had the best summer I've ever had in the gym, I've started to push my boundaries, I'm able to push a little more weight around."

Adding strength is a key ingredient for Garland, who hopes to start - and finish - the season on the Coyotes roster.

"It's about being able to start here, to get all 82 games in," he said. "I wasn't here until the middle of the season last year, so it would be nice to be here for the playoff push from day one. I'm focused on keeping my strength and energy up for the long haul, focused on my diet and sleep."

If there's been a motto consistently cited by head coach Rick Tocchet since the start of training camp, it's to "not waste a day," to embrace every skate, to get the most out of every workout, to find a way to grow each and every day.

"You can tell even this year already, and I know it's only been two days, but [Garland's] confidence level strikes me," Tocchet said. "He's one of the guys who's really impressed the last couple of days, he's working hard out there."

Regardless of the past, everything must be earned right now. Garland knows that.

"Especially in the position I'm in. I was in the AHL for two years, I know how hard it is to make it here," he said. "And it's even harder to stay here. Everyone wants to be in the NHL, everyone's coming for the job, I understand how hard it is to keep a job here. I take it to heart; I want to not come in and take anything for granted, I've got to work hard every day."

Nothing comes assumed for the 23-year-old forward, who after an exquisite junior hockey career, had his fair share of growing pains as he transitioned into the pro game. That has only added character, knowledge, and an invaluable degree of awareness.

"You've got to be in the moment," he said when asked to describe his mindset. "You have to focus on having a good day and follow it up with another good day, to try to keep getting better and better. I don't want to carry last year with me, I still have to cement myself as a full-time NHL player, and that's what I'm looking to do this year."

He is driven by the stark realization that there are no guarantees when it comes to earning a job on an NHL roster, and by his relentless push to prove that he belongs.

"It's about working to make the opening night roster, to be on the team when the final decisions are made," he said. "Obviously I was on the team last year, but nothing is written in stone. "I want to come in here and play the way I can, earn my job back, and become the player I think I can become in this league."

And if anything is guaranteed, it's that he's going to work for it.

 

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