Darcy Regier insists he has a difficult decision to make.
Buffalo's 19-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers, all 6-foot-8 of him, is doing his best to make it easier on the Sabres' long-time general manager as the countdown creeps closer to the end.
"People in the game tell you that you have a good player in this young man and they have seen him play and he's ready for the National Hockey League, but he's got to do it," Regier told NHL.com. "To his credit, that is what he has done so far."
Ah, the old "so far" quote. Regier is, of course, hedging all of his bets now because Myers is playing on one of those popular nine-game tryouts for young players who still have junior eligibility.
We've seen a lot of those lately, haven't we?
If Regier feels after the Sabres' Oct. 28 game at New Jersey that Myers would be better suited to play another year in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, he'll be sent back and the clock on his entry level contract won't start ticking until next year.
However, through six games, Myers has been turning in a success story in the same way Los Angeles' Drew Doughty and Toronto's Luke Schenn did last season. Doughty and Schenn were standout rookie defensemen who passed their nine-game tests with relative ease last October and went on to have marvelous rookie seasons.
Among rookies this season, only Victor Hedman and John Tavares are playing more minutes than Myers' 19:46 per game. Michael Del Zotto is the only first-year defenseman with more than Myers' four points. Nobody has is better than Myers' plus-5 rating.
The Sabres are 4-1-1, first in the Northeast Division, and Myers is fourth on the team in points and third in ice time.
"I felt more and more comfortable as I played each game through the exhibition season and now as each game goes by I feel like I can keep doing more out there," Myers, who scored his first goal Friday night, told NHL.com. "My main focus in my first game was to keep it simple and now that I have had a couple of good games I realized I can step up and that's what I'm trying to do."
He's doing it well. For evidence, see his end-to-end rush in Buffalo's 6-2 win against Detroit last week that earned him an assist on Patrik Kaleta's rebound goal.
"Andre the Giant there was skating up," Kaletta said. "He made a great play."
Myers used his Chris Pronger-esque stride and Zdeno Chara-like reach to go roughly 150 feet with the puck on his stick before trying to stuff a shot through Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood.
"He has small man skills," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He does things with his feet that most small players do. He has quick feet, quick hands and he's got good vision. Sometimes footwork is unique for a big man like that because you would expect more of an elongated stride. He's got feet that normally a small person would have."
Myers' unique size for a hockey player has always put him in the same conversation as Chara and Pronger. He's been compared to those two hulking blueliners since scouts started to realize he could one day play in the NHL, but the comparisons seem a bit unfair.
Chara and Pronger could be in the midst of Hall of Fame careers. Myers is just starting out.
"Those two guys are probably a lot meaner than me on the ice (laughs), but we have some similarities," Myers admitted. "We have the long reach and can use the sticks to our advantage. Also, those are two pretty good hockey players in the NHL so I'll take those comparisons any day. I have gotten it so much now that I'm kind of used to it."
Regier has to figure out if they're truly warranted right now.
He can be swayed by Myers' early success, but he can't be fooled by it.
Will Myers be able to sustain at least some of it through 82 games? Can the Sabres deal with the inevitable ups and downs Myers will go through? What happens if this League starts to chew Myers up after say 30 games?
Regier has to consider each question carefully before making his ultimate decision, one he said won't come down to injuries because the Sabres have capable players they can call up from the American Hockey League.
Myers has to be able to stay in the lineup on his merit alone.
"It's tough to evaluate over nine games, but when you decide to keep a 19 year old, if that is the decision, then you have to know you're going to have to keep working with them and they will have more inconsistencies and ups and downs than the older players and you have to live with that," Regier said. "We still have some games before we have to make a final decision, but he certainly has gotten off to a good start."
Contact Dan Rosen at: email@example.com