The secret to his physical transformation?
Eating better, and working out. Guard would have never stepped on a treadmill in his time in junior, but playing pro hockey, where being in top notch shape can earn you a job over the next guy in a competitive job market, makes sweating in the gym a requirement not an option.
Guard is also looking for a new team to play for this fall.
He and his agent are cutting all ties with the Ottawa Senators organization. "They obviously have plans for the others guys so, I've got to move on.", Guard told me from his off season home in Prince Albert.
"It would have been nice to get into a game or two to show that I can play at that level, but that's the way it goes. You get that little taste of being a backup, and you want to get that experience of playing in a game, so ya, it frustrating."
With Ray Emery solidifying his place as the #1 goaltender with the Senators, Guard says moving elsewhere is his only option after three years in the organization. "I have a lot of respective for the Senators organization, but things didn't work out, so you move on. Once they (Senators) go with a guy, they really go with him. You are really going to have to work your way up to get any games for sure."
Guard now will look at his options after NHL teams begin signing free agents July 1st. "You really just have to wait and see what opportunities come up. Some situations are going to be different, and some are going to be better, but you just have to wait and see and talk to your agent to see if someone else is interested".
Could we see the Rockets second pick in Wednesday's CHL European draft, Mikael Backlund in Kelowna any time soon? The Calgary Flames Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Sands says don't hold your breath.
"Our understanding is Backlund will play this season in Sweden. I was honestly surprised that someone took him in the CHL draft. We don't make the decision for the kids on where he plays, but our understanding before drafting him was he'd play another season there", Sands added.
"By him (Backlund) playing in Sweden, he can play in his hometown for another year, plus he can play against some top level competition against older guys. In the league he plans to play in, it's a little more competitive, a little stronger and it's comparable to the American Hockey League."
"Darryl (Sutter) has the say on whether he would at sometime come to North America and play, so he could answer your question there", said Sands.
"I’m a two-way playmaking centre who scores some goals and gets some assists," Backlund said. "I love to do that."
The six-foot, 195-pound centre is an exceptional skater and stickhandler who works hard at both ends of the ice. He also is known for his competitiveness and leadership traits.
Backlund helped Sweden win bronze at the world under-18 tournament last winter by leading all players with six goals.
Backlund only played 27 games for Vasteras. He struggled early on and then suffered a knee injury, but he was in top form at the under-18 tourney. Scouts say his style resembles that of veteran NHL forward Mike Sillinger.