LOS ANGELES, CA -- It has only been three games but defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon has caught the attention of Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano.
The 22-year-old, recalled from the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League when Ladislav Smid went down with an upper body injury, has been thrown right into the fire in the midst of the Flames battle to get back into contention for a playoff position and has acquitted himself nicely on the back-end.
Playing alongside Jakub Nakladal, Wotherspoon has been earning regular shifts and hasn't looked at all out of place when facing the likes of the Vancouver Canucks, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Los Angeles Kings.
“I think he’s playing great," Giordano stated. "He’s best attribute is probably how calm and poised he is with the puck.
"He’s a smart player. He makes really good reads and really good decisions. I think he’s been really good since being (called) up."
That aplomb is the result of a steady maturation process. Wotherspoon, selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, is in his third professional season after spending his entire junior career with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
In the AHL, he has 149 regular season skates under his belt. The coaching staff has worked diligently with him and he has put in big minutes in the American League, playing in a top-four role in Stockton.
Offensively, his four assists in 40 games this year don't jump off the page at you but his defensive game is his strength. His stick work and positioning have come a long way over the last three years and Wotherspoon has developed into a strong shutdown defenceman under Stockton head coach Ryan Huska.
He has also had a few opportunities to get a taste of the NHL since turning pro. Prior to his most recent call-up, Wotherspoon dressed for 15 regular season games and six playoff dates with the Flames.
Those experiences have made his transition to the NHL this year very smooth.
"I feel like it’s going great," Wotherspoon told CalgaryFlames.com. "I just feel like I’m getting more comfortable every game. I had that one chance in the third period (in Anaheim) and I just feel like I’m getting my opportunities, feeling more comfortable."
During his last three games with the Flames, Wotherspoon is a plus-three and has put four shots on net. Every game he has played, he has gained a better understanding of what he needs to do to make sure he becomes a NHL regular.
"You’re always learning and always trying to get better. I feel like just being here for the last four or five days. I’ve learned so much, just being around the guys. The coaches are always trying to teach us new things.
"Just being up here at this level, you learn so much every day."