KANATA, ONTARIO (LGS) — At the expense of a 2009 third-round pick, the Buffalo Sabres made a deal with the Los Angeles Kings to move up one spot during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft to select 6-foot-7 defenseman Tyler Myers from the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
Despite his extremely large frame, the defensive-minded Myers is considered to have great skating ability and good offensive upside. While the 18-year-old draws obvious comparisons to Boston's Zdeno Chara, Myers says he tries to model his game after Anaheim's Chris Pronger.
"I feel I'm a strong skater that can move the puck well and see up the ice pretty well," Myers said in a pre-draft interview. "As a bigger guy, I want to make sure I'm mobile out there. I've always worked on my footwork and I'll continue to work on it."
Listed at just over 6-foot-7, he was the tallest North American skater ranked by Central Scouting. While some experts consider him as a project with great upside, Central Scouting ranked Myers as the fourth best North American skater making him a potential steal as the 12th overall selection. Some mock drafts had the towering defenseman going as high as second overall.
"His height differentiates him from the rest of the draft-eligible defensemen – he towers above all the other players," said E.J. McGuire, NHL Director of Central Scouting. "He is not often burned by the small, quick players and because of the emphasis in today's NHL on a lack of restraining type of play, I think Tyler has adjusted well to that and is more ready to play in the new NHL."
Myers was born in Houston, Texas where he became hooked on hockey after attending a Houston Aeros IHL game. After moving with his family to DeWinton, Alberta, the defenseman's game flourished. This past spring, his dual citizenship left him with a tough decision to make when he became eligible for the IIHF Under-18 Championships. Myers eventually chose to play for Canada over the United States and that decision would pay off as he led the Canadians to a gold medal victory over Russia.
"I just feel if I hadn't moved to Canada, I wouldn't be where I am today as a hockey player," he said. "I feel like I owe Canada (my international commitment)."
In 65 games this past season, Myers notched six goals and 19 points for Kelowna while racking up 97 penalty minutes. He has been a dominant force on the Rockets blueline over the past two seasons and is considered by many as being very difficult to beat on the rush because of his tremendous reach and poke-checking ability.
Despite playing last summer for Team USA at the 2007 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Myers is now committed to Team Canada for the remainder of his international career because of his decision to play for the Canadians during the 2008 IIHF World U18 Championship, which occurred this April in Russia.
"I don't think he's put his stamp on the game yet, whether he's going to be a physical player or an offensive player or a combination of both," said Hockey Canada scout Al Murray. "He has shown some abilities in both areas, but I don't think I feel comfortable yet classifying him as either an offensive guy or a shutdown guy. I think like a lot of players he's just a work-in-progress at this time."
In return for the 12th overall pick, Los Angeles received Buffalo's first pick, 13th overall, and next year's third round selection.
"Growing up in Houston, I was a Dallas Stars fan. And I'll never forget. I think it was four overtimes when they were playing the Buffalo Sabres, and Brett Hull scored the game winner. It was pretty exciting for me."
Friends Today, Foes Tomorrow
Myers and Kelowna defensive partner Luke Schenn were considered to be one of the most formidable defensive pairings in all of the Canadian Junior hockey leagues. The good friends will eventually become bitter rivals as Schenn was drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sabres couldn't have asked for anything better ... especially at 12th overall. Myers has the potential to be as good if not better than the four defenseman drafted in front of him today. In fact, many experts had pegged Myers to be off the board by the time the sixth pick rolled around. He has tremendous size and great skating ability to go along with it. He'll probably need a year or two to fill into his large frame, but when he does he'll be exactly what the Sabres have been looking for. I fully expect Myers to develop into a premier NHL defenseman.