Silver Knights forward Patrick Guay has spent the past week in the gym and on the ice at home in Quebec, getting better, faster, stronger for another season. But around this time last summer, he was sitting on his couch and watching the TV, waiting to see if his life would change.
At 20 years old, Guay had just wrapped up his fourth season in the QMJHL in high-flying style. During that 2021-22 campaign, Guay tied for second league-wide with 55 goals and ranked fifth in the league with 104 points. He helped lead the Charlottetown Islanders to the QMJHL Final alongside VGK prospects Lukas Cormier and Jakub Brabanec.
With such sparkling success, Guay had also put himself back on the radar of NHL teams and given himself an opportunity to hear his name called at the NHL Draft.
“At a point in the season, I was scoring a lot and I was playing really well to help the team win a lot,” said Guay, also a First Team All-Star that season. “That was most important to me because we had a really good team that year. My personal success was fun, but what really made that year special is that we were winning a lot and that gave us energy.”
“I knew I had people looking at me because of what I was doing and how well I was playing. I didn’t want to focus on that because our main goal was to win the championship, though we lost in the Final. I knew I had attention on me, but I tried not to focus on that.”
When the week of the draft did arrive, Guay was still doing his best not to focus on the surreal opportunity he may have.
“It was a day that I was looking forward to, but at the same time I didn’t want to put too many expectations on myself. It was just a normal day with workouts and ice in the morning,” said Guay. “We knew I had a pretty big season in Charlottetown and had a chance to get drafted as a 20-year-old. So I was relaxing on my couch watching the draft on tv, paying attention but nothing too crazy.”
Guay’s wait came to an end on the draft’s second day. He had stepped away from the TV, going about his afternoon, when in the background he heard a voice announce a name that sounded a lot like his own.
Uncertain whether or not he had heard correctly, Guay ran outside to pull his father away from his yardwork. The two entered the living room just in time to see ‘Patrick Guay’ flash onto the TV screen, selected 145th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights.
“And right when he walked inside, there was my name appearing on the left side of the TV. When we saw that, we were so happy and gave each other a big hug,” said Guay. “There were a couple of tears, too. It was a reward for all the hard work my family and I had put in.”
There was no oversized watch party at the Guay house that afternoon to mob Patrick when his name was called. Rather there was a simple, proud, well-earned family moment that will not be forgotten.
Afterwards, however…well, word travels.
“I got a lot of phone calls – my coach from Charlottetown [Jim Hulton], my teammates, my buddies.”
And one of the first calls came from the VGK and Director of Player Development Wil Nichol.
“I had spoken to Wil Nichol during the season a bit,” recalled Guay. “He would come to see Brabenec and Cormier, and we had a few talks. When he called me right after my name was called, I said thank you for everything. It was a very special surprise.”
Following celebrations and local news interviews in Quebec, Guay was on a plane and off to Las Vegas for the Golden Knights’ development camp. After an impressive week of orientation, Guay would have another important series of conversations with Nichol and other members of VGK management.
Guay had dominated junior hockey the season prior. He still had a year of junior eligibility remaining but, as an older player in the draft at age 20, he also had the option to turn pro. It is not uncommon for one or two players at the top of the draft to make the jump straight to the NHL, but it is not quite common to see fifth-round picks jump straight from major junior to the pro ranks.
“I knew I was at a level where I could start pro, and I think I proved it this year,” said Guay. “I think we made the right choice for me this year. I have a year of pro experience under my belt, and I know what to expect and to be ready for this year’s camps.”
“I got used to playing with men – bigger, faster, and stronger. That helped me a lot for my development this year and for my confidence heading into next year.”
Guay did more than hold his own as a rookie in the ECHL, netting 16 goals and 52 points in 49 games with the Savannah Ghost Pirates and earning an All-Star selection. He impressed with the Silver Knights as well, grabbing two goals and five points in 17 games. This fall, he hopes to make another big jump.
“In junior, the vibes are a little different. I had a big summer last year training and talked to a few pros on what to expect,” said Guay. “It’s a step from junior to the ECHL and from the ECHL to the AHL. But during the season, I progressed with my game and my mentality. So I felt really comfortable at the end of the season with the Silver Knights.”
Guay is a close friend of the Perreault family, as in Anaheim Ducks first-rounder and current San Diego Gulls forward Jacob Perreault. For the next few days, he will be pulling for Jacob’s younger brother Gabe, who is a highly ranked prospect in this year’s draft.
And as Gabe and the next wave of young players anxiously wait to hear their names called in Nashville, Guay’s advice is simple – don’t just enjoy it, appreciate it.
“Be grateful for the team picking you and for the people around you, but also be grateful to yourself,” said Guay. “You put a lot of work in and that’s what people sometimes forget – how difficult it was for you to get to that day. So be grateful and enjoy every second of it, because that day is going to go by fast.”
It has been a rapid ascent for a young player who two summers ago went undrafted and was still fighting to prove himself. In Summer 2023, he is targeting higher aspirations. Still, he will always be able to look back to last summer and what he calls, to this point, the best day of his life.
“To have my name called in an NHL Draft is special, and no one can ever take that away from me.”