~ Written by Jamie Neugebauer, SJHL Communications Staff
When you have a 6-foot-3 defenceman who can skate like the wind, and comes to the rink every day with a great attitude; well, it should not come as too big of a surprise when heads turn.
Enter Notre Dame Hounds 2003-born assistant captain Jaryd Sych.
While his growth from the U18 Argos in 19-20 to the present day — where at 18 years old he is one of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s best — seems fast, it has been a long journey for him to reach the status of potential Division I player.
“I think I always have something to prove,” he says.
“I have always been a kid on the bubble, an underdog, so I always am looking to show who I am. It doesn’t matter whether I am a young guy or a vet, we are all in the same boat because of Covid, so I put that aside and try to be a good teammate with everyone.”
Jaryd began attending Notre Dame in 2017, where he climbed the various teams at the college from U15 Prep, to Notre Dame Argos U18 AA, to Argos AAA, and then finally to the Junior A squad.
Sych caught Junior coach and general manager Brett Pilkington’s eye during that final year in U18, and while the rangy blueliner might have been an unknown to many around Saskatchewan, Pilkington’s excitement for what he could become was clear from very early days.
“Jaryd Sych is a great human being first,” Pilkington says.
“He and his family is one that a lot of families can learn from. This kid and his family haven’t forced things too much. He came to Notre Dame and he has taken the steps needed: he’s never rushed things, never did anything outside of his job. He’s been working out, getting on the ice with, and being pushed by great examples to follow (like Princeton committed teammate Kevin Anderson and others around the college). We’ve seen it (for a while) with (Kevin and Jaryd), the leadership aspect, the willingness to show up at the gym at six in the morning, stay till late at night, and between there put in the time to do what it takes to be a successful hockey player.”
Ultra-dependable in his own end, Pilkington trusted Sych from the start of last year’s abbreviated campaign, alongside long-time veteran Hardy Wagner, and although the points did not come over that short time, the confidence and attention from scouts for the youngster certainly did.
After a hard-working off-season, prolonged by the pandemic, Sych has come into 2021-2022 as a man on a mission, with a league-leading three goals and second-best six points from a defenceman, and has not sacrificed the steadiness while playing beside talented newcomer Sam Kroon.
“It’s a little bit of both pressure and excitement (at the notoriety),” Sych says.
“I want to represent myself well obviously, and the attention is good, but I’ve never been a big ‘points guy’, I would rather do myself proud and play well and help the team win whatever that looks like. I just want to be great on the back end, keep the plus/minus good, make good plays, and be a positive role model around campus.”
That Jaryd is so grounded should also come as little surprise. His mother is a life skills coach, and his sister Mikaelyn just finished her university volleyball career at the NCAA Division I level with the University of Portland, and the Canadian USports powerhouse Trinity Western.
The lessons learned at home are not something the hockey-playing Sych takes for granted.
“To play Division I is my goal, it has been my goal since I was young, to go to secondary school like my sister,” he says.
“She has been a big role model for me and seeing her struggle to get there meant a lot. My mom, she’s a great life coach, and obviously I get a lot of what you could call free sessions on rides home and whatnot, so I could always easily open up to her, and she has the experience to know what to say, how to help. She’s a great person to have around and especially as a mother.”
As the young Hounds continue to find their footing, to have a defenceman like Sych who can play over 25-minutes per night and in all special teams situations, is beyond valuable, and as much as Notre Dame trusts Jaryd, Jaryd believes in this group as well.
“We could go far with the talent we have,” he says.
“We want to go to the playoffs, and make a run. We are young, but we have that competitiveness and that drive, so don’t think we’re underdogs just because we’re young.”