Dana Tyrell is in constant motion on the ice.
There you see him, there you don’t, as the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward zips around a defenseman to the net. You think you have time and Tyrell is quickly in your face. It doesn’t matter how big you are, he will hit you.
Tyrell may just be ready to take his style to the NHL with the Lightning this fall after a strong year of growth as a professional. He will come to camp in September with a chance at a roster spot.
“Last year, I didn’t feel like I was in as good a shape as I am now,” said Tyrell, a standout at Lightning Development Camp in Tampa July 10-14. “I feel like I’m ready to step up and play some games with the big team in Tampa if I get the opportunity.”
Jim Johnson, who coached Tyrell with the Norfolk Admirals last season, said he could see a difference in Tyrell at Development Camp. Tyrell was all in every drill, 100 percent healthy.
A little over a year ago, Tyrell arrived in Tampa after recovering from knee surgery. He looked strong, but most players, coaches and doctors will tell you it takes about a year after surgery to get back to where you were. Tyrell said he felt faster, but it was just about six months after he went under the knife.
Johnson said it took Tyrell a while to get his skates under him in the American Hockey League at Norfolk after training camp last year. Tyrell went 10 , 20, 30 games without a goal. Brandon Bochenski, who played with Norfolk and the Lightning last year, said Tyrell was so eager and fast he would skate past plays at times.
“I think I was trying a little too hard at the start and people noticed it,” Tyrell said. “I had to get my timing down. But I really started to feel it in the second half.”
Through his first 38 games of the season, Tyrell had no goals, nine assists and had a plus/minus rating of minus-7.
Tyrell scored his first goal, the game-winner with 7:16 left, in a 1-0 victory at Lowell on January 24. From that day on, the Airdrie, Alberta native had nine goals, 18 assists and was plus-16 through the final 36 games. The Admirals were 20-12-4 in the last 36 games, just missing out on the playoffs.
“It was my first full pro year and I got a great learning experience at Norfolk,” Tyrell said. “I’m going to take that forward to camp this year.
“I think I’ve got the speed of the game down. I hadn’t played against players as big and strong, and I’ve adapted to it. Most of all, my thinking has gotten a lot quicker on the ice and I think that’s a big part of playing in the NHL.”
Johnson said Tyrell has as strong a work ethic as anyone he’s seen in the AHL. He has no doubt he will keep moving forward, understanding and expanding his game.
“He creates so much offense from his tenacious forecheck and his speed,” Johnson said. “He forces guys to turn the puck over because of his anticipation and his quickness.”
Tyrell, 21, scored 30 and 25 goals his first two years of juniors. Then he had 19 in his first 30 games of the 2008-09 season with Prince George, playing with Lightning first-round pick Brett Connolly, before the injury in an exhibition game with Canada’s World Junior team.
The question with Tyrell is will he be a solid third-line grinder or can he contribute on the top two lines and score 20 goals at the NHL level? Either way, he is the type of player that can make an impact.
“I lost my confidence a little last year,” Tyrell said. “But I got it back the second half of the season. When I’m playing my game, I think I am a player that can score [20 or more] goals.”
Tyrell had a goal and two assists in this year’s Young Guns Game, ending Lightning Development Camp. But that camp was just the start, a chance to work on new things. The big challenge is September.
“I know I can’t go in worrying about what I can’t control,” Tyrell said. “I’m just going to be prepared and go there to do my best.”