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Tyler Myers a Prize for Buffalo

Jan 26, 2010 – 1:00 PM
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Susan Slusser

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Henrik Tallinder plays alongside rookie defenseman Tyler Myers, so he might be biased when it comes to the Calder Trophy for this season. His guy, Tallinder said, is worthy.

"He's up there, from my point of view," Tallinder told FanHouse before a recent game in San Jose.

And even from his perspective, the veteran Swede has to look up to Myers, who is 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. Myers is also 19 years old. He'll turn 20 next week.

"It's amazing that he's doing what he's doing at his age," Tallnder said. "The composure he has with the puck, it's unbelievable. The way he moves and skates for a tall kid ... he has it all already."

Myers told FanHouse he's always tried to hone his skating, because of his height. He knew with those long legs, he'd have to make sure his stride was smooth, even as a kid. Well, as more of a kid than he is now.

"My dad always told me to keep my knees bent, to stride out," Myers said. "He always worked at it with me."

"... If we hadn't made that move, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I owed that to them. I didn't base it on what team would be easiest to make. Canada is a big part of what I am."
-- Tyler Myers on Choosing Which Country to Play For
Myers lived near Houston as a youth, and he could have been a basketball player -- he played that sport, as well as baseball and soccer, but he also got into hockey. His father, a college hockey player at Lehigh, took Myers to a Houston Aeros game, and Myers, age 6, was hooked.

Then the family moved to Calgary (Paul Myers is in the oil business) and Myers was all hockey, all the time. So much so, that when it comes to international play, he has decided to stick with Canada rather than play for the U.S., despite having dual citizenship.

"I look at it like, if we hadn't made that move, I wouldn't be where I'm at today," Myers said. "I owed that to them. I didn't base it on what team would be easiest to make. Canada is a big part of what I am."

That is a bummer for the U.S. hockey team, and probably will be for a long time. Many believe Myers could have been in Vancouver for the U.S. next month; he wasn't even really a consideration for Team Canada. He will, though, be a mainstay in future Games barring injury and, of course, if NHL players are still involved.

Myers' Buffalo teammate, Ryan Miller, is the U.S. goaltender, and he'd just prefer not to think "what if" when it comes to Myers and the Olympics.

"He's picked his direction," Miller said. "There's no use debating it now. It would have been nice, but he has strong ties to Canada."

Having an enormous, fast, agile young man playing in front of him for the Sabres is really the main thing, as far as Miller is concerned. And like Tallinder, Miller is amazed at Myers' skill, because he was not at that level when he was a similar age.

"It's so impressive," Miller said. "When I was 19 years old, I was was just starting college (at Michigan State) and I know what I was thinking about. He's a good teammate, he's a good learner, he picks up things quickly and he's eager. It's interesting to watch him every day."

Myers' skating is remarkable for a big man, and his stick-handling is equally good; he is often compared to Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara for his size and his skill. Most surprising, though, for a young defenseman, is that Myers has been able to minimize mistakes.

Usually, the NHL is a tough transition for a young blue-liner, because every little miscue gets magnified -- often into the back of the net. Myers just doesn't mess up all that often, and when he does, it doesn't rattle him.

"Even if he's out of position, with his reach, he can cover it up," Tallinder said with a chuckle. "And if he does make a mistake, it doesn't affect him much. He just pushes it away and moves on."

John Tavares and Matt Duchene might be more high-profile, big-time goal scorers who were taken first and third in the draft, respectively, while Myers went 12th. Myers, though, is gaining momentum as the top Calder candidate, and San Jose coach Todd McLellan called him the kind of player who is good for the league as a whole.

"That's something the league needs," McLellan said. "A big man who can move the puck and provide some offense."

"You hear things," Myers said of the Calder, "but I try to put stuff like that out of my head. I'll think about that at the end of the season."
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