Early on during the Mississauga Steelheads’ training camp, Cameron Gaylor asked if Owen Tippett and Michael McLeod, last season’s leading scorers, were around in hopes he could play against them.
They were away at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase at that time and are still at NHL training camps — McLeod with the New Jersey Devils and Tippett with the Florida Panthers — with the NHL regular season beginning later this week.
Gaylor’s inquiry showed his desire to play against McLeod and Tippett showed his competitive nature. It could bode well for him as he continue to transition to the style of play in the Ontario Hockey League.
“Being a AA guy, I always loved playing against AAA guys, whether it was in tournaments or summer hockey,” said Gaylor, Mississauga’s first-round pick in the 2017 OHL Under-18 Draft. “It was something that motivated me to pick my game up, especially now that I’m playing against guys who were drafted into the NHL. They’re the best of the best.”
The U18 draft was a new initiative last season and the Steelheads selected Gaylor carried some significance because he had played AA hockey most of his life before his one season of AAA with the Don Mills Flyers heading into the draft.
He admitted he didn’t really know what to expect going into Steelheads training camp and even had the Jr. A Whitby Fury lined up as a fallback plan, but he did enough to stick with the OHL club.
“I didn’t know if they were really looking at me too seriously,” he said. “I just thought (I should) work as hard as I can and leave it all out there.”
It didn’t take long for Gaylor to get his first OHL goal out of the way. That came in Mississauga’s second game of the season on Sept. 23.
Since then, fellow rookies Keean Washkurak and Cole Schwindt scored their first career goals in a 6-4 loss to the Owen Sound Attack on Sept. 30.
Although the Steelheads are off to an 0-4 start, Gaylor is trying to make the most out of his opportunity.
“It’s a great experience and I’m trying to get better every time I’m on the ice.”
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