Deception was never an attribute known to be synonymous with Dana Tyrell.
Always considered as a genuine hockey player with a strong sense of character off the ice to mirror an equally as impressive hockey skill set, Tyrell’s deceptive qualities have always been purely limited to the playing surface. First you see him, then you don’t. He’s one place, then another.
The forward prospect has been known to buzz around the ice, crashing the net one minute, while cementing himself in a guy’s face the next. His style of play on the ice hasn’t changed, but for the first time, those same deceptive tactics commonly displayed inside the rink are now translating to the NHL. In recent weeks, Tyrell has caught a lot of people off guard as he still finds himself on the Lightning roster, and more significantly, one of the final players fighting for what is believed to be just a few roster spots.
“It doesn’t surprise me as much as it might some people who haven’t watched me, but it was very hard to get here, for sure,” Tyrell said. “The coaches saw a lot of good prospects in camp and now coming down into the final week of preseason, I just have to take it one day at a time. Obviously, I’m very excited, but I still have to go out there and show the coaches what I’m made of and that I can stick with this team.”
Entering play on September 30, Tyrell registered a plus-2 rating, tied for third on the team with two points and also tied for the team lead with as many assists through a pair of preseason games. If his progress thus far serves as any indication that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL, then it might be due in part to the fact that Tyrell’s style of play, centered around speed and tenacity, fits right into the mold of Head Coach Guy Boucher’s system.
Boucher has preached the same message since his arrival in Tampa Bay. He is looking for guys who are relentless and evaluates all his players with three criteria: attitude, work ethic and discipline.
“I’m a big fan of speed,” Boucher said. “If a guy is too slow, he really doesn’t fall into my type of player. The other thing about me is that I like abrasive guys. We’ve got guys who can score, but they are also going to be in your face.”
Up to this point, Tyrell has not disappointed. Even though the stage on which the Airdrie, Alberta native currently shines is still slightly unfamiliar, the territory is not completely uncharted. Tyrell, in fact, has been here before since being selected with the 47th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, although his tenure at the team’s training camp in previous years has never been met with such good fortune or longevity.
“This is the closest I have ever made it to making an NHL team, so it feels great and is very exciting for me and my family,” Tyrell said.
Tyrell attributes this year’s successful camp to a number of factors including the instruction of the new coaching staff which values improvement in each player, the support of his family, friends and teammates and also his experience. But the primary reason accounting for such a breakout preseason campaign is his high level of confidence, a trait that is often scarce in young players competing against NHL veterans and also can be easily shattered after suffering a major injury, much like Tyrell did when he tore numerous ligaments in his knee in December of 2008 during a tune up for the World Junior Championships with Team Canada.
“Personally, I know I can compete with these guys,” Tyrell added. “It’s just a matter of proving it to the coaches. My injury took longer than I expected to recover from, but ever since then I’ve been on an incline and have continued to gradually get better.”
Injuries, however, were not the only thing the 21-year-old center has had to endure since arriving at camp. Tyrell entered this year’s preseason playing for his third coach in as many years and has not only had to learn new systems and master various styles of play, but has had to perform at a high level at all three in order to put himself in the position in which he currently stands.
The barriers did not appear to have any negative effects on Tyrell and instead motivated him to maintain a positive attitude and display a relentless work ethic. With just several days remaining in camp and Tyrell still a mainstay at practice each day, Boucher and the coaching staff has certainly taken notice, as well as even a few of his teammates.
“Every day he brings such a great attitude and he does everything that is asked of him,” Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina said. “It’s always tough to defend against him at practice because he is so fast and can do some really tricky things with the puck. He’s a great, talented young player.”