C, Saginaw (OHL)
Projecting a young player's NHL future is never easy, and there is no guarantee that even top draft picks will succeed at hockey's highest level, but history shows that those with the greatest work ethic and dedication to off-ice training have the greatest chance of reaching their full potential.
By that standard, Tom Pyatt, the Rangers' fourth-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, appears to have a very bright future in hockey.
"Pyatt is heads and tails above all our other prospects from a fitness perspectives," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney during the team's recent Prospect Development Camp. "Coming into our camp, he set a standard that no other ever has. Because of that, you have to respect him."
The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder's dedication to being the best he possibly can is unparalleled. In fact, the minute last season ended, he was already beginning to prepare for next season.
"As soon as I got home from Saginaw, I have just been in the gym, running, and riding the bike," Pyatt says. "I have been following the New York program very strictly. It's done me pretty well so far and I feel pretty good."
The program was put together by New York Rangers Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Reg Grant. Pyatt says it's extremely intense training that requires a lot of commitment.
"Everyday there is a little warm-up for you, and then you get into the strength training," he said. "Right after that you do the core workouts, and then jump on the bike. It's quite a bit of work, but it's important."
Obviously, his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
"Tommy is very intense and very business-like when he comes to the rink," Renney explains. "He knows it is a job. It's a job he loves, mind you, but at the same time he is very dedicated to being a great player. He's a good pick for us, and is a guy who I expect to don a jersey at some point in time."
Equally as important, Pyatt is as successful on the ice as he is hard-working off it. The younger brother of Buffalo Sabres forward Taylor Pyatt and son of former NHL player Nelson Pyatt, he had an incredibly strong year for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League and struck gold for Canada at the World Junior Championship tournament last January.
"The World Juniors were a great experience," Pyatt said. "I never expected to be there the year before. It just shows that if you work hard anything can happen. Especially being in Canada and playing in Vancouver, it is something I will never forget."
Back in Saginaw, Pyatt, the Spirit's captain, finished the 2005-06 campaign with 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in only 58 games. He ranked third on the team in goals (24), fourth in points (29), and posted a positive plus-minus rating (plus-5) for the first time in his junior career. He also chipped in eight power play goals and one shorthanded tally.
Dubbed "the steal of the 2005 draft" by TSN analyst Pierre McGuire, Pyatt is a highly disciplined young man. For an aggressive center, he recorded a mere 29 penalty minutes during the regular season. Remarkably, that is more than double the 14 penalty minutes he posted in 2004-05.
The 19-year-old is also not afraid to play behind the net and is extremely adept at penetrating opposing defenses. Pyatt's silky smooth skating and excellent hands give goalies very little chance of going side-to-side on him to prevent wraparound attempts.
Pyatt helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2006 World Juniors.
What impresses Renney most about Pyatt's play, however, is that he is a great thinker of the game. He knows where he needs to be on the ice, and reads the play before it actually unfolds.
After winning the World Junior gold, Pyatt was selected to play in the 2005-06 All Star Classic. Skating with the best of the best, the native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, netted two goals for the Western Conference All-Stars.
Apart from all the personal accolades and accomplishments, Pyatt said he's most proud of guiding the Spirit to the playoffs for the first time during his tenure.
"Our team struggled my first two years," he said. "We were at the bottom of the standings for a while, but last year was great. We finally made the playoffs and it's looking even better for next year."
In the 2006 OHL playoffs, Pyatt tallied one goal and two assists for three points, along with four penalty minutes, in four games.
In a lucky twist of fate for the Rangers, Saginaw recently selected Tomas Zaborsky, the Blueshirts' fifth-round pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, as part of the CHL import draft. In Pyatt, Zaborsky would have an ideal role model for demonstrating the dedication required to succeed within the Rangers organization.
-- Ricky Henne
|TOM PYATT - 2005-06 STATISTICS |
|C ||Saginaw (OHL regular season) ||58 ||24 ||29 ||53 ||29 ||8 ||1 ||7 |
| ||Saginaw (OHL playoffs) ||4 ||1 ||2 ||3 ||4 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
| ||2006 World Junior Championships ||6 ||1 ||0 ||1 ||16 ||0 ||0 ||0 |