Daniells commits to Clippers 

Whistler hockey player eager to play in Nanaimo

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN GALIC COURTESY OF KASI LUBIN - Kai Daniells will join the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers in 2020-21.
  • Photo by Dan Galic courtesy of Kasi Lubin
  • Kai Daniells will join the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers in 2020-21.

Whistler's Kai Daniells is heading to the Island for 2020-21.

The local hockey player announced on March 25 that he's committing to the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers as he takes the next step in his career after four years of refining at the Delta Hockey Academy.

In a March 27 interview, Daniells said he'd been talking with the Clippers, amongst other teams, for roughly a year, but ultimately felt he'd get the best opportunity with Nanaimo. As well, with several other Delta grads being part of a successful program, Daniells feels he'll be able to step right in.

"I went there just because that was closest to what I wanted, and it was the best fit for me to get a scholarship," said Daniells, who described himself as a two-way player that can contribute offensively and possesses strong game sense out on the ice.

"The coach really likes me, so that's a really big part. I know some guys on the team, and they've taken a lot of other guys from the same program as me in Delta.

"They take care of us pretty well, so it's a comfortability thing."

This past campaign, Nanaimo finished first in the Island Division and third overall in the BCHL in the regular season, and had swept aside Alberni Valley in the first round of the playoffs when the season was called.

Daniells got his first game of BCHL experience this past season, suiting up as an affiliate player with the Chilliwack Chiefs in a 5-2 loss in Surrey in February. Chilliwack is just two years removed from winning the RBC Cup as national champions, and Daniells said despite the loss, the sense of what it takes to be successful still lingered in the Chiefs' room.

"You can't take any shift off. You've gotta be ready at all times, be fast and physical," said Daniells, who had attended the Chiefs' training camp before the season. "[Chilliwack] is focused and ready to go, but they're also loose.

"It's a good environment."

Clippers head coach Darren Naylor said the team had been scouting Daniells the last couple of seasons, having him at their prospect camp in 2019, and he is eager to see what he looks like in Nanaimo orange.

"Kai is definitely somebody who can step right into the league and contribute. He is a gifted offensive player who creates opportunities other players do not. His willingness to go into the dirty areas to score goals sets him apart from a lot of players his age," he said in a release.

Daniells, who just turned 17, spent the last four years with the Delta Hockey Academy, hitting the 10-goal mark each year in roughly 30 games per year and cracking 30 points in all but one season.

"The biggest thing [you learn] is how to train properly, how to carry yourself, all the little things that end up making a big difference," he said.

The days in Delta are packed, as players get up at 5:45 a.m., catch the bus at 6:15 a.m., do dryland from 7 to 8 a.m., and then practice from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m. before taking an online class at the rink itself. After that, the players head to the school for two more blocks of class.

Before heading to Delta, Daniells grew up in the Whistler Minor Hockey Association with the Winterhawks, an experience he appreciated and one that helped shape him as a player.

"It allowed me to be creative and it was a fun atmosphere to be with all the guys. Everyone loved it," he said.

Daniells said his dream is to go pro, but for right now, he is focused on landing a scholarship, adding that he has already been in contact with some American schools.

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