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Wishart Working Toward His NHL Dream

by Tris Wykes / Tampa Bay Lightning

Ty Wishart has one assist in 26 games this season with the Norfolk Admirals. The rookie defenseman and former first-round draft pick is rated a minus-1, which isn’t bad on a team that’s struggled defensively.

However, it’s not the statistics, or lack thereof, that interest Admirals coach Darren Rumble when it comes to the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Wishart. It’s how hard the mobile blueliner plays. Rumble preaches that he can live with mistakes as long as they’re made at full speed, and he’d like to see some of that hell-bent style out of No. 7.

“He’s made progress and he’s playing better,” the coach said of a prospect who’s skated in all but three Admirals games. “But there’s still nowhere near the sense of urgency and physicality that I’d like to see him play with. I think a lot of that has to do with confidence in his physical strength... but that will come.”

The Lightning aren’t asking Wishart to turn into a barbarian. The organization would like to see him display more of what Rumble calls “jam” - a willingness to mix it up physically, show a little mean streak and hold his own in front of the net.

Wishart, the 2006 NHL Entry Draft’s 16th overall selection and the first by the San Jose Sharks, is aware of what he’s being asked to do. He said he believes he’s developing more of a rough-and-tumble style against AHL opponents mostly older and stockier than himself.

“My last few games I’ve been playing with a lot more grit and been a lot meaner,” said Wishart, who helped Canada earn the Gold Medal at the 2005 World Under-18 Championships and led Western Hockey League defensemen in points last season. “Hopefully, I can keep that up. As for strength, that’s something I have to work on, but I’m still growing and I don’t think it's that big an issue for me. I can still go out and compete; I just have to do it for 60 minutes.”

Rumble said he believes Wishart will need more minor league time before it can be truly judged whether he’s ready for the NHL. The coach projects him as a second pairing defenseman, although Admirals general manager Mike Butters said he thinks that’s the minimum level Wishart can reach and that extensive special teams time is a possibility.

“I haven’t used him much on the power play because I want him to take baby steps,” Rumble said. “I don’t want him to feel he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

Before he can make the jump to the NHL, Wishart needs to learn not only how to play a rougher style, but how to consistently avoid turnovers. Against Bridgeport last Friday his turnover resulted in a tying goal 30 seconds into the third period. Norfolk rallied to win and Wishart was unruffled afterwards.

“It’s trying to do too much with the puck,” he said. “Trying to force something that’s not there. If the play’s there, make it. But if you don’t, then off the glass and out is never a bad play.”

While coaching plays a role in Wishart’s development, Butters said it’s mostly a journey of self-discovery.

“Ty Wishart’s development is all up to Ty Wishart,” Butters said. “If he wants to be an NHL player, he has the tools to do it.  It’s just a matter of how badly he wants it and how hard he’s willing to work.”

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