CALGARY, AB -- Tyler Wotherspoon never got to experience that first NHL training camp.
He got playoff hockey instead.
A brief stint with the Calgary Flames during the 2013-2014 NHL campaign saw the 6’2”, 210-pound defenceman tally four assists in 14 games.
That season ended prematurely for the rookie blueliner after undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery in early April -- also forcing him to miss his training camp and a shot at cracking the Flames' roster.
I learned a lot. It’s a totally different animal in the playoffs and getting a taste of that was huge for me and my development. -
Tyler WotherspoonAfter spending the entirety of the 2014-2015 regular season in the AHL with the Adirondack Flames, Wotherspoon was summoned by the Flames several times late in the season but didn't see any game action.
Then, after Calgary lost Raphael Diaz to a lower body injury, he was called up to the big club on April 4, giving him not only his first taste of playoff hockey at the pro level, but a chance to gather steam enroute to a full-time job in the fall.
“It’s a big difference, making the playoffs and being in that situation,” the Burnaby, B.C. product said following the Flames run to the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. “I learned a lot. It’s a totally different animal in the playoffs and getting a taste of that was huge for me and my development.”
Wotherspoon is no stranger to hockey’s second season.
As a junior, the 22-year-old patrolled the blueline for a Portland Winterhawks squad that made three straight trips to the Western Hockey League Championship series from 2010-2013.
Wrapping up the 2014-2015 AHL season with two goals and 22 assists in 61 games, Wotherspoon dressed for six games of the Flames postseason run against the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks.
Sent up and down from Adirondack to Calgary throughout the season, Flames coach Bob Hartley said the decision to bring Wotherspoon up once more for the playoffs was a move made with the future of the team in mind.
“We had a decision to make between Wotherspoon and Cory Potter,” Hartley explained. “We felt they were very close, but we went with Spooner because we want to invest in our younger defencemen.”
“We are stilling climbing the mountain and we felt that going with the younger defenceman would be good for today and tomorrow.”
Taking limited minutes against Anaheim and Vancouver, NHL playoff experience alone was enough for Wotherspoon, who looks ahead to a critical Flames training camp in September.
After last year’s missed opportunity, Wotherspoon has been challenged by Flames GM Brad Treliving, who wants the budding rearguard to step into his first camp like a seasoned veteran, ready to nail down a roster spot.
“Your first camp you are just coming in and you are happy to break in gear,” Treliving explained. “The next camp you know who the trainers are, you don’t get lost when you are going to different rooms, your third or fourth camp, you come in to get a job.”
Wotherspoon said he’s now ready to rise above last year’s adversity.
He’s hoping to be on the ice when the Flames kick off the 2015-2016 NHL season.
“This summer’s big for me,” he said. “Having a full off-season to train healthy, that’s huge. (Treliving) said, ‘have a great mindset going into camp, have a confident attitude to come in and really make a statement and take a job.’ That’s what I’m going to plan for and work hard this summer to achieve.”