I’m looking forward to stepping on the ice for the Calgary Flames this year, and really contributing to our season. That’s all I can control right now, is to show them I belong there. - Tyler Wotherspoon
CALGARY, AB -- Tyler Wotherspoon knows it’s time.
At 23, and on his second pro contract after signing a one-year, two-way pact on Monday, the veteran of 26 career NHL games hopes to show he has the skills to be a regular fixture with the Calgary Flames.
“I’m still at the part of my career where I haven’t had a full NHL season and I need to prove to the league and the organization that I can play,” said Wotherspoon, who has 162 games of American Hockey League experience over the past three seasons.
“This contract shows that. I’m looking forward to stepping on the ice for the Calgary Flames this year, and really contributing to our season. That’s all I can control right now, is to show them I belong there.”
He tried to do that in 11 games with the Flames last year.
The stint followed a one-game audition in 2014-15, which came after what was a promising showcase in 14 games in 2013-14.
But the Burnaby, BC native has spent more time plying his trade with Calgary’s minor league affiliate than with the Flames.
“Calgary has done a great job of drafting well and acquiring some good defencemen,” Wotherspoon said. “I don’t look at it that way. I just feel like I have to go there and show I can be the best one out there. I’ve just got to go out there and do my job.”
Growing organizational depth on the blueline, both at the NHL and AHL ranks, has increased competition in both spots.
Not that Wotherspoon is using it as an excuse.
“You’re always curious what’s going on around you,” Wotherspoon said. “It’s kind of my job to see what the situation is and go about it that way. I don’t look into it religiously or anything like that. When it comes down to it, it’s about how I play and how I perform on the ice. If I play well and do good, my actions will speak louder than what the numbers are.
“I’m always looking around because I’ve got a lot friends on the team and around the league. I’m always curious to see what they’re doing and what’s happening, but that is stuff I can’t control. I can only control myself.”
It’s not in Calgary’s depth that has slowed Wotherspoon, he details.
It’s in earning trust.
And establishing some with new coach Glen Gulutzan is his top priority entering training camp.
“Being a young guy I have a lot to prove,” said Wotherspoon, who has netted five assists to date in the NHL. “The coaches really look to being able to trust their defencemen and trust that they’re going to go out there and do their job. That’s what I’m looking forward to this upcoming season.”
Former coach Bob Hartley, who was relieved in early May, was the only NHL coach Wotherspoon had known. Gulutzan, who was hired as Hartley’s replacement in June, will offer Wotherspoon a fresh start.
And a new opportunity to prove he can earn a full-time stop in the NHL.
“I think whenever there’s a change in the organization like that it’s a clean slate for everybody,” Wotherspoon said.
“For me, I’m going to go in there and ask what I can do to make this team and whatever he wants me to do I’m going to try to do it to the best of my abilities.
“I’m excited to meet him personally and get things started.”