The 2014 Flames Fifteen – #11 Tyler Wotherspoon

Many years ago, Tim Erixon decided he didn’t want to play for the Calgary Flames. Jay Feaster, in a bind, turned to Glen Sather for help. Rather than hope Erixon fell to them when he re-entered the draft, the Rangers sent two second round picks and prospect Roman Horak to Calgary instead for Erixon’s rights – the Flames would’ve gotten only a second rounder if Erixon went back into the draft.

It stands as perhaps Feaster’s best move as a GM, and that’s completely ignoring that the two players they got with the draft picks – Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon – are seemingly close to being NHL-ready contributors.

Originally chosen 57th overall in the 2011 Draft (Granlund was picked 12 spots earlier), Tyler Wotherspoon is #11 in this year’s Flames Fifteen.

In stark contrast to Brett Kulak, who was the star player of a bad, bad team, Tyler Wotherspoon comes from a veritable hockey factory in Portland. The Winterhawks made the WHL Championship series three times and went to the Memorial Cup once during his junior career.

Oh, and he made the Canadian World Junior team, which in itself is a pretty tall order.

  Justin Kent Ryan BoL Byron Taylor Christian 2013 2012
Tyler Wotherspoon 12 10 8 9 11 10 7 12 15

Wotherspoon was a productive junior player, with NHLEs of 2.86 (at 16), 4.61 (Draft Year), 10.28 (Draft+1) and 14.92 (Draft+2). As a 20-year-old, he had an ungodly good plus/minus of +62, second in the entire CHL behind teammate Nic Petan. Of course, a lot of that had to do with Portland being insanely stacked as a team.

Wotherspoon plays a pretty straight-forward game. He’s not a huge physical presence, but he uses his size and speed well and is a pretty solid positional defenseman, even as a 21-year-old NHL player. He’s not often caught off-guard by the speed of forwards, and he’s not often out-muscled. For a team that’s really low on guys that are physically ready (and physically big enough not to get pushed around), Wotherspoon has a lot of useful tools.

A nice surprise were his offensive flashes in Calgary this year. Wotherspoon had a couple games where he was shaky with the puck early-on – he admitted that he was making adjustments to the differences between the AHL and NHL. But once he found his confidence, he made some strong outlet passes and actually was pretty solid at generating scoring chances. He ended up with 4 points in 14 games, primarily playing third-pairing minutes with no power-play time. And there was a 2-1 shootout win at home against San Jose, where Wotherspoon set-up the game-tying goal by Joe Colborne with a gorgeous slap-pass and was named third star of the game.

The challenge for Wotherspoon in 2014-15 will be proving that his first year wasn’t a fluke (and continuing to grow his game). Oh, and staying healthy. He had an early-season concussion that cost him a few games, as well as having his brief NHL tenure ended by shoulder surgery. Wotherspoon’s late-season injury opened the door for Chad Billins, Mark Cundari and Chris Breen, but based on his short apprenticeship at the NHL, you’ve gotta believe that Brad Treliving and the rest of Flames management hope Wotherspoon comes into camp at 100% and ready to pick up where he left off.

    • Skuehler

      Totally agree. That’s why we need BroDano around to mentor guys like Spoon.

      With Butler a question mark for next year and certain injuries I see Spooner playing a lot in the bigs

  • PrairieStew

    I had him higher on my list – at 6. If he sticks this fall as a 3rd pairing guy then that’s outstanding – perhaps he can progress to a decent 2nd pairing guy in a couple of years.

  • Skuehler

    Wotherspoon sounds like he’s a responsible shut down D man with an offensive upside… if the Flames could draft Ekblad they could be really solid on the back end.

  • I’m not sure what to think about Wotherspoon. Looks like a guy who could go either way. I liked what I saw in some instances last year, but he also got eaten for breakfast in others. That said, playing with Smid or Butler didn’t help a whole lot.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of progression he takes this season. If he makes a case to usurp one of Smid or Butler, then the Flames have something.

  • T&A4Flames

    You don’t have the run down of the previous ranked players like you used to do, but I don’t believe Sieloff has bee on here yet. So that means that either you have him ranked higher than TSpoon which is crazy since he hasn’t played. Or, Sieloff isn’t ranked at all because he’s been injured and hasn’t played.

    • McRib

      “You don’t have the run down of the previous ranked players like you used to do, but I don’t believe Sieloff has been on here yet.”

      I agree, even though I think these profiles continue to improve from year-to-year. I like T&A4Flames wish we still had the rundown of previously ranked players with links like last year to look back at previous postings at the bottom of each profile page just before comments….

  • Lordmork

    I hope Wotherspoon can emerge as a quality 2nd pairing guy for the Flames. It would really buy the team some time to draft and develop some defencemen to improve the team’s poor depth in that position. I get the sense, though, that he isn’t expected to be that good.

    • TheoForever

      This makes no sense to me…

      I know he was hurt but Sieloff, if he can fully recover in a way Bouma did after a year off, should easily be ranked higher than Culkin at the very least.

      Kulak is debatable after his strong AHL showing so I can see him ranked higher for the time being.

      Anyway back to Wotherspoon:

      I like his size and awareness on the ice. He could easily become a player like Smid or he might develop his offensive game a bit more (after seeing some of his offensive awareness I think he can – playing with Seth really helped develop his offense I think)

      I think he should earn some time on the big club and there is enough vets to insulate him and help him grow.

      I have some hopes of a #4 defenseman in him!

      • TheoForever

        Sieloff missed a year, didn’t play much prior to that. I would imagine it will take him half the season in AHL just to get back to his normal self. I doubt he will be NHL ready for 1 to 2 years.

      • Parallex

        “I know he was hurt but Sieloff, if he can fully recover in a way Bouma did after a year off, should easily be ranked higher than Culkin at the very least.”

        Why?

        I can’t think of a single thing that would suggest Sieloff ought to be ranked higher than Culkin. Worse Stats, worse health record, guy hasn’t even been healthy enough for anyone to assess whether he can even just suppress shots against better. Culkin over Sieloff is, without a doubt, the right call at the moment.

        • I think its more that I cant believe Culkin is a top 15 prospect.

          1. Gaudreau
          2. Baertschi
          3. Poirier
          4. Granlund
          5. Gillies
          6. Ortio
          7. Klimchuk
          8. Reinhart
          9. Knight
          10. Arnold
          11. Wotherspoon
          12. Agostino
          13. Kulak
          14. Jankowski
          15. Sieloff/Ferland

          I guess after writing it out it makes a little sense since Sieloff and Ferland were injured and not many are high on Kanzig or Roy enough to include.

          I’m still not sure of Culkins NHL upside which is how I rank prospects. I get that losing a year to serious injuries like infection and knee have put their careers slightly in doubt so I will concede and truthfully say these lists are pretty accuarate and a treat to read.

      • There’s simply not enough information to really rank Sieloff. He has played less than 50 games in the last 2 seasons, almost all of them in junior, where he put up less than pedestrian offensive totals.

        We know he can hit hard and the org likes his attitude, but he’s also rather fragile, has lost a ton of playing time in formative development years and hasn’t really done anything of note aside from being a 2nd round pick.

        In short, we don’t know much about Sieloff and what we do know about him isn’t impressive enough to put him on the list by default.

        • Thanks.

          Makes sense.

          I just always liked him for nothing more than he can lay thunderous hits! I miss the days where our d-core was feared throughout the league cause Regehr, Phaneuf, Sarich and Gio wouldn’t let anyone off easy.

          • That’s fair. I think after watching Denis Gauthier smash people but be terrible in every other way I have since looked for more than “hits hard” in defenders. Which means I am always suspicious when the first item on a kids resume is “big hitter”.