in at #8 on FlamesNation’s Top 20 prospects is Tyler Wotherspoon. “Spoon” has
been in the Flames system now for four seasons and has taken astronaut-like
steps in each of those seasons, especially since turning pro.
the Flames’ 2011 second-rounder may no longer be the new shiny toy in the
system anymore, he’s still the one defenseman who appears to be the closest to
making the NHL full-time.
mid-way through last season, there was a strange turn in Flames fans’
perception of Wotherspoon. Call-up and after call-up, reassignment after
reassignment and still no playing time. This led to speculation on why
Hartley wouldn’t play him, what was wrong with him and whether or not the
collective fan base had been overrating him.
22 years old, the former WHL Champion is just beginning to come into his own as
evidenced by last season. Not only did Wotherspoon display his typical stifling
defense on a more consistent basis, he thought the game at a higher level than
any other Adirondack defender. He became more confident in his skating ability in
order to challenge opposing forwards to loose pucks, but still be able to get
back into position if the play didn’t work. He went through his in-game reads
like it was a Tuesday morning practice in January.
more impressive is that Wotherspoon broke out of his defensive shell and
transformed his game into that of a two-way defenseman – the type of defenseman
Treliving has increasingly put a premium on as evidenced in his drafting,
free-agency and trades. This earned him a lot of power play minutes and far more offensive zone starts than in
his rookie year. The result was a career-high 24 points and more than twice as
many shots than the previous season.
DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
good as Wotherspoon has become at the AHL level, you can’t help but think he’s
going to start hearing footsteps very soon. A healthy Ryan Culkin is perhaps
the closest to catching up to him on the prospect depth chart. Kenney Morrison
won’t be far behind after a full season in Stockton. Oliver Kylington and Brett
Kulak are still wild cards in AHL, but could creep closer.
it’s not unusual to have a homegrown defenseman marinate on the farm for
several years, Wotherspoon is entering his third season in the AHL and is
closer than ever to make the Flames. Yes, I know we’ve been saying that for a
couple of years now, but most fans were getting ahead of themselves.
Wotherspoon could conceivably be in the AHL until he’s 24 if that’s what it
takes. There is no rush whatsoever to get him to Calgary. With Wideman and
Engelland on the move within the next couple of seasons, patience is key for
fans of Wotherspoon.
fall, we shouldn’t expect him to
remain in Calgary after training camp. The expectation is that he will once
again be the Flames’ first call-up. What we should be anxious to observe,
however, is if he can refine that raw, new-found talent he developed last
season and maintain his stronghold as Stockton’s #1 defenseman.
I think in regards to motivation for him, and it goes for all of the players, they want to play in the NHL. As I mentioned before, the greatest motivator to push yourself every day are the people around you. They’re not going to have days off, because if they do somebody might pass them on that depth chart. I think Tyler’s going to push himself. I think he’s going to be real good for us if we see him, and at the end of the day, all these guys want to play in the NHL. And for me, that’s a lot of motivation for a young man to be able to help him take that next step.
-Stockton Heat (and former Adirondack Flames) head coach Ryan Huska on Tyler Wotherspoon’s motivation next season.