BUFFALO – There’s a distinct difference between the focus of a beat writer or local TV crew and a random dude from The Hockey News; this I became well aware of after witnessing the Sabres’ 4-2 loss to Atlanta on Saturday.
Having watched rookie defenseman Tyler Myers a couple times so far this year, I had been very impressed with the confidence he had shown on the ice, coupled with the obvious physical advantages of being 6-foot-8 and in control of that frame.
That was my angle. The fact Myers had been undressed by ex-Sabre Maxim Afinogenov for the backbreaking goal of the night (scored right after Buffalo’s Drew Stafford made the game 3-2) didn’t really enter my mind when I asked the team’s PR crew to bring out the former Kelowna Rockets star.
But it certainly entered the minds of a dozen local media folk, who quickly swarmed the youngster once he came out. So, my apologies, Tyler, for exposing you to a phalanx of questioners who wanted to know about your “off night.” If it’s any consolation, I’m here to sing your praises.
As previously mentioned, Myers is a towering kid and weighs in at 222 pounds, but having played last year in the Western League, he had a chance to hone his game in junior just a little longer than fellow rookies such as Evander Kane and Matt Duchene, who went straight from the draft to the NHL.
Both Kane and Duchene have looked great this season, but neither had to figure out how to move such a lanky frame up and down the ice effectively. Myers did, and he has.
“I really worked on moving the puck quickly,” Myers said of his final year in junior. “The coaches were a big part of my development.”
That’s probably the most surprising aspect of Myers’ game in the NHL so far. Despite being a rookie rearguard, the youngster has not been shy about rushing towards the net. In fact, his first NHL goal came on such a strike.
“The coaches (in Buffalo) have told us to do that when we can,” Myers said.
So far, it’s working. Myers’ condor-like frame has helped him tally four points in his first six games to go along with a plus-5 rating. Those stats have him near the top of the Sabres’ table and earning nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game.
Considering he’s still a teenager and defense is the toughest position to learn at the NHL level, it’s fair to say the occasional off-night will still occur in the future for Myers, but they’ll likely be few and far between.
Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Kenny Ryan has left Boston College and will sign on with the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires as soon as some necessary international transfer paperwork is completed. While it’s surprising Ryan would leave Chestnut Hill before even playing a regular season game, the fact the right winger hooked up with the Spits isn’t shocking.
At the draft this past summer, Ryan noted he was good friends with fellow Michigan native Cam Fowler, who is tearing up the OHL in his first campaign with Windsor. Fellow Toronto pick Jesse Blacker also plays for the Spits, who will once again contend for a Memorial Cup this season.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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