From making his own protein bars to living on his own to playing in the NHL, at just 19 years old, Buffalo rookie defenseman Tyler Myers is quickly proving he can do it all.
The Katy, Texas-born but Canadian-raised Myers has continued to wow fans since his NHL debut earlier this season when he became the 16th youngest in Sabres history to play for the team in a season opener. The agile blueliner, who’s been compared Zdeno Chara, has stepped into the Sabres line-up and immediately made an impact. He leads the team in ice time, averaging 23:20 minutes a game, and has helped provide offense with 7 goals and 28 points in 48 games. His 28 points leads all Sabres defensemen as well as all rookie defensemen in the league.
But Myers isn’t just an offensive weapon, he is also among the team’s leaders in hits (51) and leads the team with 82 blocked shots.
The 6’8, 222-pound Myers is making an impact at a very young age. While the league has seen a number of talented teenage defensemen step in and make a smooth transition to the NHL in recent years, former Norris trophy winner and Anaheim Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle still believes that it takes a special player to step in and make an impact like Myers has.
“I think part of it is that the game has changed from the standpoint that younger players are getting more of an opportunity,” said Carlyle. “But again it does take a special young player to play and make a solid contribution to the level in which this Myers kid is. He plays in all their key situations and doesn’t seem to be too rattled in any of them. I am sure he has made some mistakes but he doesn’t seem to carry those mistakes from shift to shift and that’s a great trait.”
Myers has impressed even the opposition.
“The guy’s only 19 but he’s playing like he’s 28,” said Ducks All-Star forward Corey Perry. “He’s a big guy and he’s poised with the puck. He’s a big part of the team. Just cause he’s young [doesn’t mean anything] he’s past his age.”
Hockey’s Future caught up with Myers during a recent Southern California road trip and got his thoughts on his whirlwind success and his first season in the NHL.
Hockey’s Future: You guys battled back in the game against Anaheim with three straight goals, did you feel like you just ran out of time?
Tyler Myers: We had some tough bounces there at the start of the game. We addressed it here at the end of the game that we thought we worked hard and just had some tough breaks and ran out of time. That fifth goal was a heartbreaker for us. [With the way we came back in the second] I think it shows what kind of character this team has. A few tough bounces for the goals in the first, the way we came back in the second was exactly what we needed to do but just ran out of time. It’s always tough to come back from four down.
HF: You’ve been paired with Henrik Tallinder this season — how have you guys complimented each other?
TM: He’s such a great skater and he handles the puck really well. It makes my job a whole lot easier. We’ve been doing a really good job of talking to each other and making sure we know where we are on the ice and I think that’s been a huge help for us.
HF: Did you expect to have so much success this season in your first NHL season?
TM: [Laughs] I didn’t quite expect it to go the way it’s gone. I’m having a lot of fun and I really owe a lot of the credit to the guys here in the room. They’ve made it very comfortable, this jump to the NHL and I owe them a lot.
HF: In addition to the offensive success, you also lead the team in ice time and are playing in all key situations -– did you expect to take a position of leadership like this?
TM: I don’t want to say I wasn’t ready for it or that I was surprised by it. The coaches have given me a lot of opportunity and I just want to make sure I can prove that I can handle all those kinds of minutes and show that I can produce. You hear a lot about the grind, coming in as a young player, and I just want to make sure I stay as consistent as I can.
HF: Has the success been easier because this team has the veteran presence as well?
TM: Yeah, I mean I can’t say enough about the guys in the room. They’ve made this transition for me so much easier and they’ve really taken me in, under their wings and really shown me what to expect at the NHL level and I’m just trying to take it all in. It’s a lot to handle but I’m just trying to take it day by day and game by game.
HF: It seems as though you burst on the scene just a year ago — has the sudden success and spotlight been overwhelming?
TM: [Laughs] I try not to take any time to look at what’s actually going on. I’m trying to save that for after the year is over but yeah, I mean coming into the NHL as a 19-year-old is pretty shell shocking for me but I’m trying to take it slow and work hard on the ice.
HF: The team has been playing very well and has had a lot of success against Western Conference opponents. What will it take to continue that success in the second half of the season?
TM: We’ve got to just continue to keep doing what we’re doing. The last couple of games, we’ve really strung together a good 60 minutes. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve really tried to focus on that. It seemed as if we couldn’t put together a full game [before] but now it’s starting to come and we’re starting to play the hockey we want to.