|This season, Tyler Myers has four goals and six points to go along with 35 penalty minutes in 27 games.|
The 6-foot-7, 200-pound defenseman with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League had a typical start to his hockey career; even if it wasn’t in a typical location.
Myers was born in Katy, Texas, about 20 minutes from Houston, and started playing minor hockey there before moving to Calgary, Alberta when he was 10 years old.
Myers’ father played hockey up to the university level and passed his love of the game along to his son. Father and son went to a Houston Aeros’ game -- when that franchise was in the now-defunct International Hockey League -- when Tyler was 7 and they were buying equipment for the youngster the next day.
“My dad grew up in Pennsylvania and he’s always enjoyed the game and enjoyed watching the game,” Myers said. “It wasn’t nearly as big as it is here in Canada. It was a different atmosphere up here with hockey being so big.”
Myers was the Rockets’ first-round pick in 2005. He picked up one assist in nine games that season before scoring two goals and 15 points in 59 games as a full-timer last year. So far this season, Myers has four goals and six points to go along with 35 penalty minutes in 27 games.
“I think it’s been going OK,” said Myers, who was rated second among WHL prospects when the preliminary rankings for the NHL Entry Draft came out last month. “I didn’t have the start I wanted to have, but working with (assistant coach) Jeff Finley really helped me along the way and I think I’ve stepped it up a little bit. I still think I have a lot more to offer and I plan to show it.”
Myers has had a typical learning curve for a player of his physical stature. When he is on his game, he can be a dominant player, especially in the defensive zone. But, he has struggled at times with the growth spurts.
His coach has watched Myers become more difficult to play against during the past two years.
“The one thing with Tyler is that his size is something that you can’t teach,” said Ryan Huska, the Rockets coach. “He’s very big and for a guy his size, he skates very well. He’s very fluid on the ice.
“For a younger guy, he’s got a lot of composure with the puck. I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of NHL scouts are fairly high on him right now.”
Huska and Finley have Myers working hard on becoming one of the top defenders in the WHL.
“He’s a guy that we’re going to look to and I think he’s moving toward that role of being a guy that we can use in all situations,” Huska said. “I think he’s starting to understand that he can use his size to his advantage in our own zone. He’s becoming a really good player defensively. His stick is so good and he makes it very difficult for opponents to get around him in the defensive zone.”
|The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Myers likes to observe bigger NHL players such as Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger so that he can pick up tips on how to play the game.|
“I watch (Zdeno) Chara and (Chris) Pronger – mainly because of their size to see how they play the game,” Myers said. “I’ve learned things from them by watching them and I’ve also learned things from defensemen all around the League. I enjoy watching NHL games and watching those players a lot.”
Myers is among an elite class of defensemen available for the draft this year, a group that includes Drew Doughty from Guelph (Ontario Hockey League), Alex Pietrangelo (OHL) from Niagara, Zach Bogosian from Peterborough (OHL) and Myers’ teammate, Luke Schenn, who was rated fourth among WHL prospects in the preliminary rankings.
With two top-end prospects patrolling the Rockets’ blueline this season, Kelowna games usually draw a large contingent of scouts. Myers said that it hasn’t been a distraction for either player.
“I don’t think about it too much; I think Luke would say the same thing,” Myers said. “There are a lot of scouts in the stands, but I try and block that stuff out and just try to play a strong game.”
Myers said that having another player on his team that is facing the same daily challenges that he is has been a big benefit for both players.
“We both learn off each other,” Myers said. “Luke’s a very good player and it’s fun to watch him and to learn from him. I think we both enjoy playing with each other.”
Myers has added a more physical element to his game this year and his coach says that it is something that he will have to continue to improve before he is ready to compete at the NHL level.
“He can play a physical game and it’s something that he’s working on to improve,” Huska said. “I think once he gains a little more confidence in that department I think we’ll see a little bit more of that out of him.”
Myers scored the winning goal in Kelowna’s 7-4 victory against the Kamloops Blazers a week ago. It was his third straight game with a goal after not finding the net in his first 19 games this season.
Minutes before the goal, Myers received a knee-on-knee hit at the blueline and was a little frustrated that there wasn’t any call on the play. He took those frustrations out on Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the week Justin Leclerc by creeping in from the blueline and banging in a loose puck.
He said that the offensive breakout was just a matter of time.
“I like to be depended on in the defensive zone -- don’t want to be a liability back there,” said Myers, who has a minus-eight plus-minus rating this year after finishing last year at minus-21. “I think the defensive zone is my main focus; but I also feel like I have something to offer offensively and I just want to focus on playing both of those areas very well.”