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Tyler Myers - Here to Stay?

Rookie blueliner making waves in this young season

We’re just four games into the regular season, but one player is already turning heads as one of the most solid and exciting performers on this year’s team.

When the Buffalo Sabres chose Tyler Myers as their first selection in the 2008 entry draft, many compared Myers to Zdeno Chara. He is tall (6’8”), lanky, and cuts an imposing figure both on and off the ice. Put skates on the guy and he’s about seven feet in height.

Myers is a United States native, born and raised outside of Houston, Texas, but his family moved to Calgary, Alberta when he was 10 years old. For the past three seasons, he played for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. This past season Kelowna won the WHL championship and advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament, and Myers was named the championship MVP.

In May of this year, Myers was signed by the Sabres to a three-year, entry-level contract, though at the time few expected him to crack the big league lineup this season. But as the Sabres got deep into training camp it became evident that Myers would see at least some regular season action. “Would I call Tyler a pleasant surprise? I would say pleasant, but definitely not a surprise,” says Coach Lindy Ruff, assessing Myers’ play after three games.

Ruff is certainly familiar with the WHL, reputed to be the more physical and freewheeling of the three major junior leagues, and Myers certainly fits the bill for the tougher team that the Sabres are hoping to become. With Myers’ height and reach, opposing forwards are finding it hard to knock him off the puck or knock him down. Small wonder that the Sabres’ defense has stood out early in the season.

While Myers has called Kelowna, a city of 108,000 residents in British Columbia, home for three years, he is ready for bigger and better things as a regular in the NHL, and would like to make Buffalo his permanent address. “At this point I have not heard anything, and I’m really not nervous about it at all,” he says. “The coaches haven’t told me anything, so I am still here for the nine games and from there, who knows. Whatever happens, happens. All I can do is go out there every night and give my best effort.”

Ruff has rewarded Myers by giving him ample opportunity to prove himself. Myers has logged almost 25 minutes of ice time in each of the first few games, and has also been given shifts on the power play. Myers recorded his first NHL point, an assist, against the Phoenix Coyotes last Thursday. “The more opportunities the coaches give me the more experience I get. I’m just trying to make the best of it.”

Myers is quickly finding out that there is a huge difference between the NHL and the juniors. “The obvious difference is the speed and the strength of the players. You just have to do things a lot quicker.”

While Myers is not exactly house-hunting in Buffalo just yet, he is quickly adapting to life in our city. “Oh I love it here!” Myers says. “The guys have been taking me out to dinner and show me the good spots to go eat, and so far I’m finding the city to be very hospitable and very friendly. I know I will be very happy here.”

Now that fellow defenseman Andrej Sekera is out for a while nursing a rib injury, it would seem to make even more sense that Myers will remain on the team once his nine-game evaluation is complete. Yet Ruff makes no promises. “He’s played very well,” Ruff says. “He’s had two strong games for us and he’s looked very solid. He seems to be gaining confidence with every game.” As for giving him a healthy dose of ice time, Ruff says, ”He’s young. There’s no fatigue in his game.”

Surely there will be bumps in the road for Buffalo’s newest rookie defenseman, but Myers is a keeper, and maybe, just maybe, the Kelowna rockets have seen the last of their MVP blueliner.

Taro Sez…

Ultimate Sports Road Trip props to the Sabres for initiating “Tour Stop” parties in select road-trip cities this season. The first party will take place at a bistro in Tampa’s Channelside neighborhood near the St. Pete Times Forum the evening before the Sabres/Lightning game on October 24. For just $10, Sabres fans will be able to rub elbows with Coach Ruff, GM Darcy Regier, and broadcast personalities Harry Neale, Rick Jeanneret, and Kevin Sylvester while enjoying Buffalo food and drink. With the large number of Buffalo ex-pats living in the Tampa Bay area and a healthy dose of road-trippers, expect a packed house.

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