Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL) and collegiate level(USHL, NCAA).
I watched a lot of Jarret Tyszka at the start of the season, but less as the weeks went on. There were recurring problems in his zone, and while he was creating plays at the other end of the ice, poise with the puck in pressured situations was missing, and his offensive abilities were often drowned out by a few dangerous turnovers every game.
Going back to watch him this week, I discovered that Tyszka is not the same player.
I don't know if it's an abrupt growth in his game, a player's hard work on his flaws and honing his strengths, good coaching, me previously catching him on off games, or a combination of all of those things, but I've never had as big of a surprise tuning in to watch a prospect this season.
This is a fifth-round pick who has been taking a lot of steps in his development and has some very intriguing qualities that, due to his improved 200-foot game, now shine.
Tyszka was always capable of rushing the puck, and it is something he has done a lot this season. He is the primary carrier on the power play, getting his team into the zone to establish the offensive formation. But transforming defence into offence directly, like in the clip above, by first using a good defensive stick and then quickly turning and getting up the ice with smooth skating and puck-handling abilities, is something much more impressive and profitable for a team.
His off-the-rush defence is still a work in progress, but progress there is. Tyszka looks like a more reliable defenceman for the Seattle Thunderbirds; one who doesn't over-commit as much. Even when jumping on the attack, which is still one of his preferred plays, he can stay in support to his teammates and repair broken plays.
On the play above, Tyszka has slid down in the neutral zone in response to the pinch of his defence partner, as it's likely that the puck will be contested in the offensive zone. By the time possession is lost, he has backed away enough to gain momentum and is able to take a great angle of approach on the Everett forward who is now exploding into open ice with the puck.
By circling to meet him with his forward skating strides, Tyszka gave himself a chance to completely separate the puck from his opponent as he leveled with him. At 6'3”, he is a good skater, but can also use his body to his advantage, gaining position over an attacker and stripping him of the puck.
That was not even the best part of this sequence. After retrieving the puck and sliding down to the corner of his zone, Tyszka took a quick look to his left to see which teammate was in a supporting position to kick off the breakout. Unfortunately for him, no one gave him a real pass option, so instead of getting rid of it, he hit the brakes, pulled the puck close to his body, and abruptly pushed in the other direction with it. The move made the Everett forward — whom he had just stolen the puck from — look even more foolish. The tactic instantly got Tyszka out of a dead-end situation.
He missed on the next pass, the last touch that would have made this an incredible one-man breakout effort, but this play is still a good indication of what Tyszka is capable of when he's tuned in, which seems to be the case recently.
His finesse now seems to fit right in with his everyday game.
He still walks a fine line between over-handling the puck and making a creative play, but the results have gone more in his favour lately.
The visible improvements in Tyszka's game lie in his confidence, and a better sense of the time he has to execute plays.
As you can see below, it's also evident in the little defensive details that make a difference on his every shift: positioning himself against the upcoming rush, tying up sticks when opponents get close to the net, or cutting obvious passing lanes.
The constant camera switches are a trademark of the Seattle Thunderbirds experience.
Overall, making sure you leave as little space to make plays for the opposition and being as annoying as possible to them are effective defensive strategies. They’re things Tyszka is succeeding at doing more and more often.
He obviously can't be attributed the title of defensive stalwart yet. There are times when he gives too much space to opposing forwards, especially in the neutral zone. But if he can keep improving this side of his game, his stock could rise dramatically in the next year as there's already some remarkable elements in his offensive play.
And those should also only get better. He has a precise shot from the top of the circles that he used for a few goals this year, and he can also fire from the point in a selection of different ways.
He can patrol the offensive blue line with a succession of quick crossovers to evade defenders, and can easily release the puck in stride when he has a chance.
He's a big proponent of joining the attack, and takes every occasion he has to support his forwards as a drop option. If there's no forward to join forces with him, given the opportunity he will be the first guy driving the play up the ice, showcasing his one-on-one abilities, and even using defenders as screens to deceptively fire on net.
The gap is closing between some of the Habs blue-liners in the WHL. It has gotten to the point where, even if Josh Brook has the highest offensive ceiling, and Cale Fleury the more welll-rounded 200-foot game, it is now possible to envision Tyszka coming out of the pack down the road, helping the Habs in a puck-moving role on their left side.
Scott Walford has not showcased the same overall growth in his game this year with the Victoria Royals. He has mostly been a steady defensive presence for them, but a good sign lately is that he has involved himself offensively with some timely pinches.
In the clip below, he leaves his blue line to aggressively contest a defensive play while taking a few peaks at where his teammates are in the offensive zone, allowing him to immediately direct a pass upon reaching the puck. It gives his team a chance to capitalize on the chaos resulting from an opposition defensive alignment forced to reform after a sudden change of possession.
Walford will be given a chance to make an impact for the Royals in the playoffs. They have some really strong teams to face ahead of them, and he will be called upon to both fill his shutdown role but also chip in at the other end of the ice to help a team that might not score with the same ease as in the regular season.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL weekly performance
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||4||0||1||1|
CHL season to date
|Josh Brook||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||43||3||28||31|