The old adage says you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers
did just that.
In his case, it just happened to be on the second day of last year's training camp.
The first-round pick (No. 12) in 2008 was all but a lock to make the team heading into camp. But Myers, 20, stood out with not only his overwhelming physical attributes -- he stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 220 pounds -- but his general hockey acumen as well. In the process, perception among the coaching staff quickly changed.
"On Day 2, most everyone started to pencil him in," Sabres associate head coach Brian McCutcheon told NHL.com.
And so began a memorable 2009-10 campaign, as Myers went on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, beating out Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard and Colorado forward Matt Duchene. Moreover, the defensive stalwart logged the most minutes of any Sabres player during the season -- an uncommon accomplishment for an unseasoned player.
It only speaks to his caliber of play.
"The more you give him, the more he can handle," McCutcheon said.
That attribute hasn't left Myers, and he is proving it at this year's Buffalo Sabres development camp. With an NHL season under his belt, Myers arrived more comfortable, confident and determined to show he can bring more to the table.
"There's still a lot of room for improvement," Myers told NHL.com. "Things like body positioning and coverage in the defensive zone, and footwork."
Another area for growth is leadership and Myers, not typically the vocal type, isn't backing down from the challenge.
"Certainly, [development camp] is a setting to take on a leadership role," McCutcheon said. "And he's done that. He's one of the hardest workers out there in camp. He's the first in line to do the drills. He shows the other players why and how things are done."
|Buffalo Sabres' Tyler Myers poses with the Calder Memorial Trophy during the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) |
Heck, his presence at camp alone carries significance.
"It means a great deal," McCutcheon said. "Tyler had an outstanding year last year, so for him to come to development camp speaks volumes -- not only about him and the kind of character he has, but about the organization as a whole to not let him rest on his laurels."
Not letting complacency set in has been an organizational philosophy. With Lindy Ruff leading the charge as the League's longest-tenured coach, trials and tribulations are merely a natural part of the game.
"If you make a mistake, [Ruff] will throw you back out there again so you have no time to think about your mistake," Myers said. "I really enjoyed having him as my coach."
The feeling was understandably mutual, but that by no means guarantees a successful second season. So what are the chances of a sophomore slump?
"Based on what I can see, I don't sense that," McCutcheon said. "Maybe things won't happen to him like they did last year. It may not be quite as easy the second time around. There'll be more eyes on him and more pressure and expectation. He's going to have to learn to handle that adversity and if he doesn't jump out to the best start, he's going to have to learn to bounce back."
Learning, incidentally, is the reason for a development camp in the first place, so the preparation for potential -- or inevitable -- hardships begins now.
"It's about education," McCutcheon said of development camp, which concluded July 9. "It gives us an opportunity as coaches to see some players and just get to talk to them in an informal setting and outline our expectations and what we're looking for."
The Sabres' coaches were generally pleased with what they saw from prospects, but were struck by one characteristic in particular.
"The increase in size," McCutcheon said. "There were some good-sized players on forward and defense -- and not at the expense of speed. They still had their mobility and could move around out there. The skating and mobility was good, and that's the name of the game now."
A Sabres coach would know, too.
"One of our reputations has been that we draft well and develop our players," McCutcheon said, adding that it's a necessity to do so in the salary cap era.
That necessity resulted in Myers' emergence. His innate talents, want-to and determination are liable to result in his emergence as a top NHL defenseman.