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Fifth-string goalie Dylan Ferguson living the dream with Vegas Golden Knights


VANCOUVER — Dylan Ferguson's first time on an NHL ice surface didn't come in Tuesday's 8-2 loss where the injury-riddled Vegas Golden Knights called on their fifth-string goalie for mop-up duty.

It was actually back in 2010 when the 11-year-old netminder led the Vancouver Canucks onto the ice before a game at Rogers Arena.

He even lined up beside his idol, Roberto Luongo.

"I do remember that pretty well. I was pretty dry-mouthed," Ferguson, now 19, recalled Wednesday. "It's all surreal how this turned out."

Surreal is one of many adjectives that can be used to describe Ferguson's last two weeks.

A seventh-round pick at June's draft, the goalie for the Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers was sitting in a Boston Pizza on Oct. 30 watching the expansion Golden Knights play the New York Islanders.

Vegas was already down to its third goalie with Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and Malcolm Subban (lower body) sidelined when Oscar Dansk was forced to leave in the second period with a leg injury.

Knowing that he and Maxime Lagace, that night's backup, were the only remaining healthy goalies in the organization, Ferguson was pretty sure his phone would be ringing shortly.

"I was actually having all-meat wings, but I didn't get them because they were about five minutes away when I got the call," he said. "I just pretty much ran out, paid off the guys' dinner, that was that and I was on a flight two hours later.

"I was watching the game at Boston Pizza and the next thing I know I get a call from Vegas saying I'm going to New York. Pretty crazy."

The emergency recall for Ferguson — who was born in Vancouver, but grew up in Lantzville, B.C., just outside Nanaimo — turned into some actual playing time Thursday when he made his NHL debut with the Golden Knights trailing the Edmonton Oilers 7-2 midway through the third period.

Ferguson stopped one of the two shots he faced in 9:14 of action, and also had an exchange with Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, who had a potential third goal nullified by an interference call.

"I was kind of star struck at the time," said Ferguson. "I think he said something like, 'Good job,' and gave me a tap on the pads and something about the hat trick he didn't get. That was pretty cool."

When the team isn't on the road, Ferguson is living at the Red Rock Casino, about 25 kilometres from the Golden Knights' home at T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas strip.

"It's pretty nice, except I can't really do anything," the teen said with a smile. "I'm just all denned up in my room and hibernating up there all day and going to practice."

Selected by the Dallas Stars in June, Ferguson was traded to Vegas as part of the Marc Methot deal a few days later. In 13 games with Kamloops this season, he had a 4-9-0 record, a 4.05 goals-against average and a 0.878 save percentage.

Having played behind Connor Ingram the last two seasons, Ferguson has just 60 games of WHL experience, and is just the eighth player from the 2017 draft to play in the NHL this season.

The other six were first rounders, while the seventh was selected in the second round.

"He's learning the pro game, he's travelling with pro players every day," said Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. "It's great experience for the kid."

Ferguson has also made an impression on his teammates, who were happy to see him get into some game action.

"I can't imagine being in his spot, playing junior and then getting called up to the NHL," said winger James Neal. "It's a pretty special moment."

Ferguson, who has yet to collect his first NHL paycheque, expects to have family and friends in attendance at Rogers Arena on Thursday when the Golden Knights (10-6-1) look to rebound off that ugly loss to the Oilers against the Canucks (9-7-2).

Lagace, who seemed to tweak something in Edmonton, was back on the practice ice Wednesday and looked like a good bet to start, while Subban took part in his first full workout and is getting closer to returning from the injured reserve.

Ferguson, who won Vegas' first-ever exhibition game in Vancouver in September, knows his time in the NHL is probably coming to an end shortly.

But this taste of the big time has him even more hungry.

"I don't think it's ever going to sink in," he said. "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life.

"When I head back (to junior) it's just going to be more motivation to work that 10 per cent harder so I can get back here."

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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