The Rangers selected Tyler Wall in the sixth round (174th overall) of the 2016 NHL Dntry Draft after he posted an outstanding season with Leamington of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Most junior players in Canada who are drafted come out of the three major junior leagues, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Western Hockey League (WHL). For Wall, it was a bit of a surprise to be selected from the GOJHL.
"I really didn't think I had a shot (at being drafted) playing in Junior B," Wall said. "I had a pretty good year but a lot of people don't take much notice of that league and so I was pretty surprised when everything fell into place there.
"It was surreal. I mean, an original six team with such an amazing fan-base. You couldn't really ask for a better team than the Rangers."
Wall has spent the last three seasons honing his skills with the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks which has become known for developing netminders with the likes of Dwayne Roloson (Calgary, Buffalo, Minnesota, Edmonton, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay), Carter Hutton (Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, Buffalo), Kevin Boyle (Anaheim) and Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) going on to successful careers in the NHL.
During those three seasons of Hockey East Association action - a conference known for producing players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider, to name a few - Wall has posted a career record of 38-26-2, including seven shutouts, accompanied by a save percentage of .910 and a goals against average of 2.37.
This year, Wall and his River Hawks started a bit slowly but after returning from the holiday break UMass Lowell has lost once in 11 games (9-1-1) and occupy second place in the league standings with an 11-5-3 conference record.
The junior netminder has played in 11 league contests and has registered a 6-4-1 record which is the fifth-best winning percentage among Hockey East goaltenders. Wall's save percentage of .922 also ranks fifth-best in the conference and his 2.14 goals against average places him third in that category.
Overall, UMass Lowell is ranked 10th in the nation with a record of 17-9-2. Wall has contributed to his club's success by compiling 9-7-1 record with a .924 save percentage which is fourth among all NCAA Division 1 goaltenders. His 2.03 goals against average also ranks him with the nation's top goaltenders.
Despite being his club's last line of defense, the 21-year-old puck stopper humbly gives the credit for his success to his teammates but River Hawks captain Ryan Lohin is not shy when it comes to praising Wall's contributions to the UML team.
"Tyler brings a sense of calmness and confidence each time he is on the ice that travels throughout the team," said Lohin, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick. "He brings a sense of focus that only few goalies I have played with have and I think that is what makes him stand out even more. Everyone can count on Tyler to do his job so it makes everyone on the ice feel comfortable. He is always positive around the locker room and on the ice. He is a down to earth guy who you can talk with about almost anything and he will help you the best he can. At the same time he isn't afraid to crack a joke, even at some of the more serious situations."
Clearly, Wall is exhibiting the on-ice and off-ice attributes that could lead to a career at the professional level which is something UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin believes is in his goaltender's future.
"From my standpoint, he does have a future in hockey," Bazin observed. "How bright that future is will depend on how he plays this year and next. Time will tell. He has a future because he's got some poise, he's got some size, he's an intelligent kid and I think anybody who competes hard enough can carve themselves out a future if they work hard enough at it."
Wall has attended three Rangers Prospects Development camps. It was at those camps where he saw first-hand that hard work is what separates those who climb the hockey ladder from those who do not.
"(You see) just how hard those guys work and the level of intensity and the focus they put into every aspect of their game," said Wall. "You see what guys at the NHL level, and guys that are coming up, do to make it there and it puts things into perspective in what you have to do to get to that level."
Wall has taken all that he has learned at those camps and has implemented it into his own game with the hopes of standing in the crease at Madison Square Garden after concluding his college career.
"That's my goal," Wall said. "That's what I hope to attain. There are certain things that need to fall into place for that to happen and I'm just hoping I get the opportunity to make it a reality."