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Catching The Torch: Jarret Tyszka continues his progression with the Thunderbirds

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Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

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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 (NCAA) level.

Jarret Tyszka has played in 21 contests since coming back from his injury at the beginning of December. The season goes by quick, and the good news is that he seems to have adjusted to the pace after missing training camp and the first 20 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds. He now seems at ease taking on his tough defensive assignments and acting as the main quarterback from the back end.

As of now, Tyszka has managed 16 points in 21 games. The 0.76 point-per-game pace is an improvement on his previous 40 points in 70 games, or 0.56 point-pace.

His production has come from his play at the offensive blue line. He is not as mobile as Josh Brook, and therefore doesn’t show the same ability to move the defence around, taking the puck on wild rides from the point to the faceoff dot with a defender on his back. Instead, his effectiveness is derived from an awareness of the traffic in front of him and picking the right spot and time to fire.

Against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday, Tyszka recognized he had a chance to set up for a one-timer. There were two of his forwards in front of the net, one acting as a screen, and the other ready for a rebound. He got the puck through all of the bodies standing between him and the cage, launching it to the left of the goalie who had just moved to his right. The netminder lost track of the puck in the second it took for it to leave Tyszka’s stick and cross the goal line.

It was a rare one-timer for Tyszka, who instead prefers to beat goalies with wrist shots. He rarely gets the benefit of being set up on the power play as he did in the above sequence. Being able to release quickly and precisely in an open lane with a wrist shot usually makes more sense from his position at the point.

The other way the fifth-rounder contributes to the offence is by joining the rush or carrying the puck up the ice himself. This ability was on full display on Saturday against the Portland Winterhawks. Seattle was trailing 2-0 with 30 seconds to go in the third period, yet managed to tie the game in large part because Tyszka took matters into his own hands and got the puck across the offensive blue line twice to orchestrate the attack.

Jarret Tyszka’s two assists against Portland.

On the first rush, starting from his defensive end he headed toward the trap of the ‘Hawks. He crossed over, gaining a speed boost toward the wide lane to beat a first defender, and skated into the offensive zone where he was met by another one. As this second opponent initiated a pivot to keep up with him, Tyszka responded by dragging the puck close to his feet, initiating a stop and avoiding a pokecheck to create space for himself. He then made a short pass to a teammate, skated back to the blue line as a return option, and directed another pass to his defence partner who scored from a point shot.

On the second rush, Tyszka gained the offensive blue line from the middle after leaving a forechecker behind with a pivot. He pushed back the line of defence and found a teammate to create a shot on net. He picked up the rebound and fed the puck cross ice to Matthew Wedman, who buried his one-timer.

The Thunderbirds ultimately lost in overtime, but Tyszka deserved one of the stars of the game for his plays that led to both goals.

There are two qualities to Tyszka that make the defenceman a trusted option both down a goal and up a goal at the end of a game: confidence and patience.

He doesn’t throw the puck away. He rarely even rims it around the boards — be it in the offensive zone or defensive zone — unless he absolutely needs to. Head up, he always looks for a pass option first.

The defenceman has no fear of extending his possession time even if he is pressured by the forecheck or the defence. When he is on his game, this tendency results in more controlled plays than turnovers. With him playing more and more games since rejoining the team and getting closer to top form (and getting his timing back), we are starting to see more good plays out of him.

Tyszka isn’t shifty or a very agile skater. There are generally no big cutbacks to escape opponents or explosive acceleration to truly create separation when he has possession. Instead, especially in the defensive zone, he relies on attracting opponents to him, ideally multiple ones, to free teammates for passes.

Let’s breakdown the first sequence in the video below.

The defenceman is gliding to the front of the net, preventing a Hurricanes player from gaining inside positioning and screening his goalie. The puck is rimmed down, and Tyszka takes the shortest path to it, picking it up from the boards and turning to identify his options. He can immediately hit his defence partner with a short (but dangerous) pass to the front of the net, his centre turning up in the middle of the ice, or his strong-side winger on the boards.

However, those players would either be immediately pressured or have to make a second pass to exit the zone. So Tyszka, who has seen his far-side winger (#11) skate up, delays his play. He advances above the faceoff dot before making his pass, attracting a forechecker on him, and by executing a lob pass he leaves another flatfooted behind the play.

There are other examples of Tyszka’s high panic threshold in the video above. While other defencemen placed in the same situations would take the easy way out (relying on their partner or dumping the puck), the Habs defence prospect finds other solutions to advance the play.

As previously stated, he might not have all the tools of a great puck-mover (he doesn’t have the feet of a Victor Mete) but he definitely has the mental makeup necessary to make a contribution to a team’s transitions even as he joins the professional ranks. The time and space will be reduced, but with teammates being in better supporting position, Tyszka’s play against pressure should still be a strong point of his game.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL weekly stats

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Rouyn-Noranda 3 3 0 3
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 0 0 0
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph Injured
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 3 3 3 6
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Guelph 3 1 4 5
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 2 0 1 1
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 3 1 2 3
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 1 0 0 0
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 3 1 3 4

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL BLB / ROU 66 43 37 80
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 65 16 27 43
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 33 10 12 22
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 62 34 35 69
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 59 34 60 94
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 67 29 44 73
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 41 8 22 30
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 62 9 38 47
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 59 16 59 75

NCAA weekly stats

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin End of season
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 2 0 0 0
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 2 1 0 1
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks End of season
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0

NCAA season to date

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 37 4 11 15
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 25 6 12 18
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 32 7 23 30
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 34 1 11 12

Cayden Primeau’s weekly stats

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 2-0-0 1.00 0.973 0

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 23-9-1 2.05 0.935 4