The closest thing to a lab coat in Taylor Pyatt’s closet is a fluffy bath robe and he certainly doesn’t have a science degree hanging on the wall of his Thunder Bay home.
But the 25-year-old winger with the blue eyes and the broad shoulders knows a thing or two about chemistry.
Pyatt, who racked up a career-high 23 goals and 37 points patrolling the wing with the Sedin Twins this past season, says he knows it’s all about the fit.
“To me, at this point in my career, it made more sense for me to stay in Vancouver,” said Pyatt, who agreed to a new two-year contract extension Monday. “I had a strong year last year and really enjoyed playing. [Vancouver] is a team that has a chance to win and compete for the Stanley Cup and that’s where I want to be.”
Pyatt took over the “third twin” assignment this season after watching Anson Carter set his own career mark of 33 goals in 2005-06 alongside the Sedins. Carter landed in Columbus last summer as an unrestricted free agent and struggled to find the scoring magic that came so easily with Daniel and Henrik.
Carter wound up a healthy scratch with the Carolina Hurricanes by season’s end. It would be a stretch to think Pyatt’s fate would be as grim had he decided to test the markets as an unrestricted free agent himself on July 1st, but Carter’s fate did cross his mind.
“I looked at [Carter’s situation] a little bit, but he was in a bit of a different situation than I am and he’s a bit older,” said Pyatt, who had scored a combined 42 goals over his previous five seasons before joining the Sedins.
“Playing with Daniel and Henrik has been tremendous for me. I know I’ll be able to build some confidence off last season and carry that in to next year.”
Pyatt’s 23 goals was good for third-best on the team behind only captain Markus Naslund (24) and linemate Daniel Sedin
(36). He knows that a new contract means increased expectations.
“I think there will be a bit more pressure coming into the season, but I’m up for it. I have to try and be a little more consistent. I went through stretches where I didn’t score in awhile, and there are always ups and downs in a season, but I have to try to be a bit more consistent and being a good leader on the team.”
“I think [pressure is] good, and I think with some opportunity he showed he could be a good contributer,” said Canucks GM and Senior Vice President, Dave Nonis. “That’s one of the reasons why he wanted to stay in Vancouver – because he was given some opportunity. But when you start getting a bigger pay check you get more responsibility and expectations rise, and that’s natural.” At 26-years-old, Pyatt should be hitting his prime. The Islanders drafted him eighth overall in 1999 following some impressive numbers playing junior in Sudbury. Pyatt struggled to stay healthy and never managed to top more than 14 goals in a year – and that was playing in Buffalo, where he averaged just over 14 minutes a game.
In his first year as a Canuck, he’s already put up career numbers and showed that he can excel as a top six forward in the league but there’s always room for improvement.
“There were nights when he was clearly a dominant player,” said Nonis. “He used his size, he was physical in all three zones and found the back of the net more than he has throughout his career, but there were nights when he wasn’t that player. Pie’s challenge is going to be more consistent. He knows it and knows that it’s part of becoming a more dominant player and we expect it.”
The Sabres eventually shipped Pyatt to the Canucks last summer in exchange for a fourth round pick in the upcoming draft. His first stint in Vancouver represented a sharp turnaround for a 6’4”, 230-pound winger with surprisingly soft hands.
“I think it was a combination of a lot of different things,” said Pyatt. “I was able to stay healthy for the majority of the season and that was something I had struggled with in the past. Playing on the power play and getting a lot of ice time helped, and of course playing with the Sedins was great and made a difference.”
While we have to wait until next season for the results of the bonding and reactions Pyatt will have with the Sedins, there are still lots of potential experiments waiting to happen this summer.
“I don’t know what’s next,” Nonis said. “We’re attacking a couple of different things including getting ready for the draft, and maybe there’s an opportunity there to make a deal that will change the look for our club as well. So there’s not any one thing that we’re targeting.”