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Prospect Of The Month - Tyler Parsons

The netminder put forth strong performances in the OHL and at the WJC in December

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

Matthew Tkachuk isn't surprised to see Tyler Parsons in the midst of another strong season.

After all, he watched the goaltender make plenty of 10-bell saves during their time together with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League.

During the Knights incredible 2015-16 run, they claimed the OHL championship on the back of Parsons' masterful play. In the regular season, he pieced together a 37-9-3 record with a 2.33 GAA, .921 save percentage and four shutouts. In the playoffs, he went on a 16-1-1 run with a 2.15 GAA, .925 save percentage and one shutout.

When London captured the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup, he went 4-0-0 with a stellar 1.78 GAA and a .942 save percentage.

"With our team last year, we found ourselves - when we went on that good run at the end - we'd be up 6-0, 6-1, 5-0 in games and we'd be kind of lackadaisical, might give up a couple breakaways, a couple backdoor plays and he would never give up. He'd always be there to make those saves," Tkachuk told CalgaryFlames.com.

"That shows how focused he is during games. It doesn't matter what the score is, he's going to be there for you. He doesn't give up, ever."

Parsons, the 54th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, has been a standout not only for the Knights but for USA Hockey in the month of December.

Before joining his countrymen ahead of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, he went 3-1-1 with the Knights to start the month. During that stretch, he had a 2.00 or lower GAA in three of those games and was credited with 27-plus saves in a trio of those contests.

At the World Juniors, Parsons has won both of his starts and has allowed just three goals in the preliminary round. His GAA sits at a tidy 1.50 and he holds a .923 save percentage heading into Monday's quarterfinal match-up against Switzerland. He was also named the USA's Player Of The Game in their 3-2 win over Russia last week.

"In the two games he's played so far, he's been great," Tkachuk, who played for the USA in last year's tournament, said. "In the first game, I think he had around 15 shots and half of them were Grade-A chances. He faced one breakaway too, was really steady there.

"He was unbelievable in the game against Russia. In my opinion, he won them that game.

"He looks really comfortable out there."

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The Calgary Flames organization is thrilled to see him play at such a high level in a tournament that could best be described as a pressure-cooker, especially for goaltenders.

Given how many games are packed into the schedule and the level of scrutiny every team faces, the tournament tests the mettle of every player participating.

"It's huge," Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy explained. "It's so much of a mental game - a short tournament, tight games. There's a big mental component.

"And he's a mentally strong person. Especially talking to some of the guys last year in London, trying to get a feel for what he's like ... the one thing everyone said was how mentally focused he is.

"At practice in Red Deer, for the Memorial Cup, when everyone else was kind of meh, he was dialed in. The coach even had to tell him, 'Woah. I don't want you to hurt yourself in this practice.' He can't turn it off. That's what nice for us, to know he's got that competitiveness inside of him."

While he is rolling now, Parsons had a tumultuous start to the season. He missed close to a month of action with a lower body injury, limiting him to just four starts at the beginning of the campaign.

He returned to action in mid-November and has been steadily improving since then.

"With the injury early on ... talking with the coaches back and forth, it was tough because he's a competitive guy. He's trying to battle through it. But in the end, they said, 'We're going to shut him down and get him healthy again.' Once he came back, he's been outstanding," Conroy said.

"Now, he's right back to where he was last year."

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