Thunder rookie making a splash on the scoreboard
It’s Tyler Perkins’ first year playing Junior B hockey, but the forward hasn’t had trouble finding the back of the net. The rookie is sitting third in team scoring behind only captain Alex Hustad and defenceman Dylan Johnston with six points in the Thunder’s first five games of the season.
Perkins, 17, grew up in Calgary and played with a number of minor hockey teams in the city before spending two years at the Edge School for Athletes in Springbank. The seasons he spent with the school’s Midget AAA team helped Perkins develop his game and prepare for the junior level.
Perkins struggled with consistency in his final season with Edge, which affected his scoring, but it’s something he’s found with the Thunder thanks to the looser environment in Junior B compared to the private school’s midget team.
“Playing at the different levels, I’m always growing and always learning,” he said. “My speed is one of my threats and I have to be one of those players who uses it all the time. A big part of what’s got me going here is being able to use it every game. I’m going back to the basics. I was having fun last year, but I’m having more fun this year.”
On the ice, Perkins’ transition to junior has been surprising for a rookie, according to Thunder Head Coach Cam Aplin, but the off-ice transition has been an eye opener for the young player. Playing with the Edge meant trainers taking care of his equipment, a nutritionist overseeing meals and workouts carefully planned and executed, so the relaxed, independent environment in Airdrie has been a stark contrast to the regimented nature of the school.
Another adjustment has been the difference in the physicality between Midget AAA and Junior B, but it’s another aspect of the game Perkins has readily accepted and withstood. Standing at 5’8” and just shy of 160 pounds should put the forward at a physical disadvantage compared to some of the older players he faces on a weekly basis. Many are grown men who have had four more years on and off the ice to develop, but Perkins has held his own.
“He plays bigger than his size,” said Aplin. “He gets in the middle (of battles) and he takes a lot of hits because he’s not afraid to go to the hard spots. He’s been excellent for us.”
Perkins said playing a physical style despite his stature is something that has been part of his game since his minor hockey days.
“I don’t like to shy away (from the play) and I’ve never seen my size as a factor,” he said. “It’s something my dad told me that the day I shy down is the day I quit hockey. I want to be engaged all the time even if it means being in the corner and getting absolutely rocked. Maybe that’s what (motivates) me.”
Aplin called Perkins the team’s best player right now thanks to a scoring ability that has been in his arsenal since bantam.
With a successful start to the season for him personally, Perkins is hoping it help jumpstarts a stellar season for the team. “I’d love to see us to go for the Keystone Cup,” Perkins said. “We have the potential to go a lot farther and what we’re showing in the start isn’t what we’re capable of.”