Dylan Sikura woke up Monday morning with plans to play golf with a few junior hockey buddies in his hometown outside of Toronto. Before he teed off, he received the news that he’d been traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Brandon Pirri.
Sikura, 25, joins the Golden Knights after completing his third season in the Blackhawks organization during which he split time between Chicago and the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
The Aurora, Ontario native was with his team in the Edmonton bubble as the Blackhawks faced Vegas in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round and though he didn’t appear in any postseason games, Sikura soaked in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time and saw his new team up-close.
“I got an understanding of where Vegas is at as a team and where they can go,” Sikura said. “I had the Golden Knights as my pick to win the Stanley Cup after that so hopefully that will come true in the next couple of years.”
Vegas is a place that sticks out in many players’ minds around the NHL for the unique atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena, the energetic fanbase and the success of the organization in just three seasons. Sikura has kept his eyes on what the Golden Knights have done since 2017-18 and said he’s excited to contribute when the team hits the ice for its fourth season.
“I was lucky enough to get down to Vegas and play there one time,” Sikura said. “You could ask anyone around the league, and they’d tell you that building is amazing. The night we played there; Cirque du Soleil was on the ice between periods. The warmups seemed like a concert, they had the showgirls behind the net, it was crazy. It’s an awesome place and an awesome environment. The success they’ve had since coming into the league as a new team is amazing. I’m excited to join the team and hopefully add to that success.”
Sikura has registered 14 points (1G, 13A) in 47 NHL games and 68 points (31G, 37A) in 91 AHL games since leaving Northeastern University after his senior season. When his collegiate career began with the Huskies in 2014, he had to earn his keep despite being one of only four members of the team who had been drafted by an NHL club. He appeared in 25 games and posted seven points (5G, 2A) as a freshman.
“Dylan is skilled, smart, plays with a lot of intelligence, gets around the ice really well, and can make plays,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan before Sikura’s freshman year. “He is always looking for that perfect play to set up his teammates – he’s obviously an unselfish player. He is someone that has that ability because of the offensive skills and the instincts that he possesses and brings each and every day.”
Trust in Sikura’s game was a factor in Madigan playing the forward in all 39 games in 2015-16 as Northeastern won its first Hockey East championship since 1988. Sikura elevated his play to put up 28 points (10G, 18A) during the run. The following year, Sikura marked a career-high 57 points (21G, 36A) for the Huskies in his junior season. As a senior, Sikura notched 54 points (22G, 32A) in 35 games as Northeastern won the Beanpot for the first time in 30 years.
His play in 2017-18 earned him a Top-10 nomination for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey. While the award went to his NU teammate, Adam Gaudette, the nomination was a fitting accolade for Sikura as he prepared for the next level.
“I was always a smaller guy growing up, so I wasn’t really on the radar in the OHL draft or anything like that,” said Sikura. “College was the best four years of my life and I’m happy that I stayed for all four years, got that experience and grew as a player. It was cool because I got to go out to Chicago, play a few games, then go back to school and graduate.”
The growth that Sikura displayed at Northeastern has translated to the early stages of his professional career. During his five-game stint with the Blackhawks in 2017-18, Sikura posted three assists including a pair of helpers in his first NHL game. In 33 games in 2018-19, he had eight assists for Chicago. During 46 games with Rockford in that same season, Sikura was a key contributor with 35 points (17G, 18A) in 46 games.
Though he only played nine games for Chicago in 2019-20, Sikura realized every hockey player’s dream as he scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 5 against Detroit.
“It was an amazing moment,” Sikura said. “It was a long time coming. I waited a long time for that one. It felt like I had the world lifted off my shoulder and I’ll never forget that day.”
For a young player, learning from veterans is something that comes with the territory. When his NHL career began, Sikura joined the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith who were part of three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago. When it comes to learning from older players, Sikura said those players are among the cream of the crop.
“It’s been incredible,” Sikura said. “When you’re in the locker room and on the ice with those guys, those are moments that you remember. Those were guys that I always looked up to growing up and I was fortunate to play with them. Watching those guys compete on a daily basis is something I’ll never forget.”
With the 2020-21 NHL season on the horizon, Sikura said he hopes his own progress as a player will help the Golden Knights reach new heights in their fourth season in the NHL.
“Vegas got to see me play at a couple of different levels, so they know what kind of player they’re getting,” Sikura said. “Hopefully I can exceed their expectations.”