Myers growing into Sabres role

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:08 PM ET

Tyler Myers thinks he has stopped growing.

When it comes to up, though, nobody thinks the Buffalo Sabres sophomore defenceman is close to getting there.

Myers was listed at 6-foot-7 in last season’s NHL Guide and Record Book.

This year, it’s 6-foot-8.

“An inch? I don’t think so. Maybe a quarter of an inch,” last season’s NHL rookie of the year told QMI Agency. “I think I’m done.”

A quarter of an inch pales in comparison to his biggest growth spurt over one summer when Myers said he went from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-6.

His constantly expanding frame made coordination difficult which makes it all the more remarkable that Myers’ greatest attribute at this point is his skating. If he has indeed stopped growing and will now be able to get more comfortable in his own skin, well, how much better can he get?

“The way he can turn on a dime for a big guy? It think it’s unbelievable,” Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime said. “There was one time (Friday night) when (Senators captain) Daniel Alfredsson was chasing him behind the net. (Myers) turned just like that and he lost him.”

Myers also showed that skill on what turned out to be the winning goal in the Sabres’ 2-1 victory. With the Senators shorthanded, Ottawa’s Chris Kelly broke out with the puck, but Myers, all arms and stick and legs, wouldn’t let him get past or pass the puck. Myers got control of it and made one of those afterburner turns, leaving Kelly in his wake and carrying the puck into the Ottawa zone where Derek Roy wound up scoring the winner.

“If it’s anyone else, the puck gets by him and it’s a 2-on-1 for us,” said Kelly. “For such a big guy, he skates so well.”

“He’s big, but he’s such a great skater. With his size, it’s amazing,” said Sabres defenceman Shaone Morrisonn, who has partnered with Myers to start the season. “He gets those hips going and with that reach, he’s so strong on the puck.

“It’s scary. He’s only 21.”

Actually, he won't be 21 until Feb. 1.

Scarier, I guess.

Physics hadn’t always been kind to Myers, whom the Sabres selected from the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League with the 12th pick overall in the 2008 draft. Because of his size and relatively high centre of gravity, changing directions was an issue. Think about turning an aircraft carrier versus a jetski.

“Kim Gellert, who’s a scout with Buffalo now and used to be an assistant coach in Kelowna, used to make fun of me,” said Myers. “Every time I’d try to make a tight turn, I’d slip out because I didn’t have enough leg strength. Being a bigger guy, I’ve always had to work on footspeed on the ice.”

He spent this past off-season working on his leg strength and quickness.

“Ladder drills, sprints, cone drills, lateral movement. Skating comes easier when you develop more leg strength in the weight room,” said Myers.

Myers’ smooth skating also lessens the worry for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff that he might overwork the kid.

He has been averaging just over 23 minutes a game in his short career - not a huge workload for a front line defenceman - but Ruff said he doesn’t concern himself with tiring him out.

“I don’t think so. He’s such a great skater, he doesn’t get tired,” said Ruff. “Twenty-five minutes a game is probably what I would like him to play.”

Kelly was left shaking his head.

“He’s so composed in his own end. Will he win the Norris Trophy? Not this year, but he will for sure,” he said. “Whoever drafted him deserves a raise.”

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chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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