I really want to move to pro. I feel like I’m ready for the next step in my career and I really want to move on and grow as a player. I want to be that pro style of the game and move. My mind mindset is to develop and do everything I can to move onto the next level. - Tyler Wotherspoon
CALGARY, AB -- One of the advantages of recently playing for the Portland Winterhawks is that the team is always a contender for the Memorial Cup. You get to play with some of the best players around, and scouts are usually in the stands.
The flip side of the coin means that your body is going to endure a lot of hockey games every season.
Case in point, Flames prospect Tyler Wotherspoon.
A four-year member of the Winterhawks, the defenceman has been a constant contributor for the past three seasons – three years that saw Portland in the WHL finals.
Between exhibition games, the regular season, playoffs and international competition, Wotherspooon saw action in almost 300 games the last three years.
“The last three years have been a long three years, there has been a lot of hockey,” Wotherspoon recently told CalgaryFlames.com. “It takes a lot of mental toughness to really stick with it, but that’s why we love the game.
“I wouldn’t have it gone any differently. It’s been a great year for me.”
The last season saw Wotherspoon team up with recent first-round round draft choice Seth Jones as the top pairing in Portland.
The duo combined for 21 goals, 72 assists and 93 points and an astounding +108 rating, while helping lead the Winterhawks to top spot in the WHL.
“It was a fun team to be on with all the high-end skill. We were pretty tough through the whole lineup. I loved playing with the defenceman that we had, the six guys worked as a group. We could play with anyone if we wanted to, we were really that close.”
After losing his first two trips to the WHL finals, Wotherspoon earned redemption this year against the Edmonton Oil Kings, clinching a berth in the Memorial Cup for the first time in his career.
In the final, the Winterhawks came up against Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and the Halifax Mooseheads, losing 6-4 in a high-scoring affair.
Add in a trip to Russia for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship over Christmas break and Wotherspoon was ready for some time away from the ice.
“It takes a toll. Not only physically but mentally,” said Wotherspoon, a Flames second-round draft choice from in 2011. “Luckily, I suffered no major injury, which was awesome on that long run.
“After the Memorial Cup, I took a three week break. Enjoyed the weather, took a little vacation for me but I started to get back training for this camp.”
And although he loves the city of Portland, he’s ready to move onto the next step in his career.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go than Portland, I’ve made it my second home,” Wotherspoon said. “I go down there every summer and it’s a lot like Vancouver for weather. I grew accustomed to it and it’s a great city.”
Having turned 20-years-old in March, he would be eligible to head back to his junior team but doesn’t believe that will be the case.
“I really want to move to pro. I feel like I’m ready for the next step in my career and I really want to move on and grow as a player. I want to be that pro style of the game and move. My mind mindset is to develop and do everything I can to move onto the next level.”
He started that journey with a strong performance at the Flames Development Camp, and will continue to show management what he’s capable of at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, running Sept. 5-9 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.