If it were up to Tyler Wall, he wouldn't even be a goaltender.
That is, a much younger Tyler Wall, who preferred scoring goals as kid as opposed to preventing them.
"When I was in tike it was going around that everyone had to be a goalie at one time or whatever … because no one wanted to be the goalie," Wall recalled. "I told the coach 'can I skip? I really don't want to be a goalie. I just like scoring goals.'"
The request was denied, and Wall found himself between the pipes as a netminder for the first time.
"I tried it once and I've loved it ever since," Wall said, adding that if it wasn't for that, he'd probably not be in the position he finds himself today.
Fast forward some years and Wall is now a goaltender in the New York Rangers' system after they selected him in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He is in the middle of his first season with the No. 6 ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks.
Wall has impressed during his first season at the school, posting a 13-4-1 record along with a 1.95 GAA and a .927 SV% in 16 starts for the River Hawks. That success has led the 18-year-old to being named the Hockey East Rookie of the Week Jan. 9 that was preceded by two Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors in October and November.
"I think the team has been great in front of me," Wall said. "A lot of numbers can be credited to the team defense. They've done a good job of keeping shots to the outside. That's been a huge help."
Wall said it's been a big transition to the NCAA from what he was accustomed to in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he played last season with the Leamington Flyers.
"It's not even comparable," said Wall, who is majoring in mechanical engineering at UMass Lowell. "Teams were good last year and shooters were skilled, but nothing like I've seen this year. It's been a real adjustment for me. I think the big thing is the pace of the game. The game is a lot faster than I've ever seen before. How much smarter players are, the plays they are making. The little things they pick up on."
Wall said he and the coaching staff have been paying attention to the details in his game like limiting angles and improving on his foot speed.
"I think you can always improve on your speed. You can always get faster. That's something I've always worked on whether in the gym or the ice," Wall said. "My goalie coach [Cam Ellsworth] has been great this year just to solidify everything. We started from the ground up looking for bad habits. We've been breaking all those habits and building good ones."
River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin praised the work Wall has done with Ellsworth, and credited that work between games as a big factor in Wall being the team's top goaltender.
"Tyler continues to show excellent progress under the tutelage of Coach Ellsworth," Bazin said in a statement on the team's website announcing Wall's Player of the Week honor. "He is earning his starts through his work in practice. We feel comfortable he will continue to ascend as we make our push in the second half."
Rangers Amateur Scout Rich Brown said Wall has both the mental and physical attributes a goaltender needs for success.
"He is calm and composed in goal," Brown said. "He is quick, athletic and competitive. He is an intelligent goaltender who anticipates very well and has shown the ability to make the big stop at crucial moments."
The experience of last year's draft and subsequent prospect camp and getting to meet and work briefly with Rangers goaltender coach Benoit Allaire was special.
"That was unbelievable," Wall said. "I really like Benoit and all the stuff he taught me. I was surprised at the amount of stuff he could teach me in a week."
That week set Wall up well for not only what was awaiting him in college, but also beyond.
"It was a real learning experience for me." Wall continued. "Seeing how much more talented the players were. It definitely set me up to come to college with a new sort of mindset. A little bit more intensity."
And to think, he didn't want to be a goalie in the first place.
Photos courtesy of Rich Images