Anyone who’s been witness to Tyler Gjurich’s offensive proficiency this season shouldn’t be surprised, because he definitely isn’t.
“It’s nothing really new,” laughed the Buffalo Jr. Sabres forward, who says he’s been scoring goals at will since he started playing hockey at the age of four.
The native of Hatfield, Pa., leads the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) in both goals (32) and points (57) this season, and was named the South-West Conference Player of the Month in November when he scored a league-best 15 goals in just nine games. Gjurich recorded points in eight of the team’s nine November games, including a pair of five-point efforts.
Before joining the Jr. Sabres, Gjurich (pronounced Joor-itch) played his last two seasons with Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Springfield Pics, accumulating 94 points (38+56) in 74 total games. This followed a successful 2009-10 campaign with the Buffalo Regals 18U team that saw him score a team-leading 99 points as the Regals captured the 2010 NY District State Championship.
Gjurich said it wasn’t just his familiarity with Buffalo that brought him back, but the opportunity to play under Jr. Sabres head coach Michael Peca.
“I played for the 18U Regals so I knew a couple kids who played for the Jr. Sabres,” said Gjurich. “They talked about how it was a good situation and obviously, I came to play for Mike Peca. That’s the main reason I came here.”
The 20-year-old Gjurich said that Peca has had a big influence on his success this season.
“He always says ‘put work before skill,’” explains Gjurich. “Obviously I’m a skill player, so playing with him I work hard all the time. I’m playing both ends of the ice this year.”
Peca is quick to credit the 5-foot-10 Gjurich, saying that his hard work has been the biggest factor in his continuing development.
“For the first time in a long time he’s being challenged to compete in all areas of his game. I think it’s obvious when you see him for the first time he’s a natural born goal scorer. But one thing you always hear about great players is that they make their teammates better,” says Peca. “He’s helped elevate the offensive level of a lot of guys. When you have your better players challenging themselves each and every day at practice, it becomes a contagious thing around your hockey club.”
Gjurich, like most junior players, is looking to get a D-I scholarship. But he also hasn’t ruled out a professional career. He’s hoping that being coached by a former Sabres captain and two-time Selke Trophy winner can help him achieve his goals.
The Jr. Sabres continue to climb the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) weekly rankings, currently occupying eighth spot with a record of 25-9-2. Their 52 points give them the best record in the OJHL, with a five-point cushion over second-place Trenton.
(The CJHL’s weekly rankings are based upon a variety of factors, including: the league in which the teams play, winning percentage, win-loss record, total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.)
The league-leading Jr. Sabres have four more games scheduled in December, starting with Saturday’s road contest in Mississauga. They return home to the Northtown Center for a pair of games next week: Tuesday vs. Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (6:30 p.m.); Wednesday vs. Toronto Junior Canadiens (7:30 p.m.). Tuesday’s game will feature the team’s second annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The Jr. Sabres close out the month when they head north of the border next Saturday (December 22) to face the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots at 8 p.m.
For more information on the Jr. Sabres, including ticket and schedule details, check out their web site at buffalojuniorsabres.com