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Prospect Pyatt taking game up a notch in OHL

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
   · Daily Prospect Updates
Tom Pyatt is no stranger to success.

In his fourth year with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, the 19-year old has established himself as one of the most complete all-around players not only in the OHL, but in all of major junior hockey.

He struck gold at last year's Wold Junior Championships skating with team Canada, was named to the 2005-06 Western Conference All-Star squad and participated in the 2005 ADT Canada Russia Challenge. On Oct. 25 he was named to Team OHL for the second consecutive year, along with fellow Rangers prospect Marc Staal, and will face the Russian National Junior Team in the 2006 ADT Canada Russia Challenge.

While his past accolades and accomplishments are certainly noteworthy, this year is shaping up to be something spectacular for the 6-foot, 185-pound center drafted by the Rangers in 2005. He is off to the best start of his career with 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points in only 15 games. He is currently second in the OHL in goals and tied for eighth in points.

Based on his start, Pyatt has every chance to top his previous career highs in all offensive categories. Through 15 games last year he had eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points, eventually finishing with 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points. And in 2004-05, he had five goals and eight assists for 13 points during the same span, finishing that season with 18 goals and 30 assists for 48 points.

Despite the noticeable spike in his numbers, Pyatt doesn't attribute his play to anything particularly different, other than a newfound attitude to be his team's top goal-scorer.

"I've never really been a selfish player," he said, "and I still don't consider myself one, but I am a lot hungrier this year to score goals. I just want to score goals. I am focusing on being there for rebounds and deflections, and trying to learn different ways that I am able to put the puck in the net. I'm still playing the same way, but I am learning more about my game."

Pyatt has turned in one impressive performance after another to establish himself as one of the most feared offensive weapons in the OHL. He has been incredibly clutch, leading the league with four game-winning goals. He can also hurt a team in a variety of ways -- four of his tallies came at even strength, five on the power play, and a league-leading three while shorthanded.

The highlights of his season occurred on Oct. 15 against Kingston and Oct. 19 against Brampton when he tallied back to back hat-tricks in leading Saginaw to a pair of victories. In the second game, he recorded an extremely rare five points, picking up two assists. Overall, he has notched six multipoint games and has topped the three-point mark four times.

"Experience in the league always helps," Pyatt says. "Experience is a very big deal and so is confidence. When you have a multipoint game, it makes you feel better about your game. It builds your confidence even higher and I feel better putting the puck on net and know that if I get a good chance, I will be successful."

Hockey is in Pyatt's blood. His father, Nelson, played in the NHL, and his brother Taylor is a five year NHL veteran, currently playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Still, while some might wilt under the pressure of living up to his such family hype, the 19-year old feels none at all.

"It don't feel any pressure because of Taylor," explains Pyatt. "We keep in touch as much as we can, and I love the fact he is in the NHL. It puts no pressure on me, I just love having a brother playing in the NHL."

The Blueshirts obviously believe their fourth round pick, chosen 107th overall at Ottawa in 2005, will eventually join his brother in the league, and are readily keeping track of his progress.

"The Rangers keep tabs on me during the season," Pyatt said. "Adam Graves will come to a few games, and he keeps in touch with all the prospects."

Pyatt is not the only future Ranger plying his trade in Saginaw. The team's 2006 fifth-round draft choice, Tomas Zaborsky, is playing his first North American season with the Spirit. Much to the delight of the Rangers, Pyatt has taken Zaborsky under his wing, and is assisting him in any way he can. So far, he is impressed with what he is seen.

"Zaborsky's adjusting quickly," Pyatt says. "Very quickly in fact. He has lots of speed and is using it. He has a pretty accurate shot and is very athletic. I've only been on a line with him very, very few times, but when we are together he is fun to play with."

In addition to skating with a fellow prospect, Pyatt sees many potential future Rangers teammates around the OHL. Still, he looks at these games as healthy competition.

"It's no big deal playing against Bobby Sanguinetti or any of the other guys I played with over the summer," he said. "They are still your friends, but on the ice, they are your enemies."

Pyatt does believe, however, that playing with his fellow prospects in the Traverse City tournament in early September helped to prepare him for the 2006-07 season.

"Traverse City was a good experience," he says, "and it definitely helped me to start the season. It's good to see where I'm at compared to other prospects, and see what I have to improve upon. I followed Strength and Conditioning coach Reg Grant's program over the summer, so that's put me in pretty good game shape".

Pyatt is eligible to join the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL after Saginaw's season ends. For now, he is content focusing on playing at the major junior level and honing his skill set.

"The team's gotten off to a pretty good start. We are trying to keep up the pace, keep improving, and see where it takes us," Pyatt said. "I mean, it's always in the back of your mind that you can come up to the AHL at the end of the season and play in Hartford, but that is not what I am thinking about, to be honest. I am just focused on the team here and trying to have a great season. If things don't go well and we get eliminated early, then yeah, sure it will be nice to be able to show what I can do at a higher level."

Clearly, Pyatt knows how special this season has already been, and he isn't taking anything for granted. He expects that he will have to adjust his game throughout the season and teach himself new tricks -- a challenge he openly embraces.

"Obviously it will be tough to keep going like this," said Pyatt, "but I don't plan on letting up."
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