Former Xtreme forward making impact in WHL
By: RYAN MCLEOD
| Posted: Thursday, Jan 09, 2014 12:28 pm
How do you go from being the whipping boy of the Western Hockey League (WHL), strung out to dry and at the bottom of the Lethbridge Hurricanes in points and goals in 2012-13, to leading the team in both categories in 2013-14?
That’s something Cochrane native and former Airdrie Xtreme forward Tyler Wong is still trying to figure out.
With 14 goals and 12 assists in 40 games, the 17-year-old has played key power-play and penalty-kill minutes for the Hurricanes (who had a 8-30-2-3 record as of Jan. 7), which is a far cry from the 13 points tallied in 53 games last season.
But how do you get such a drastic difference between seasons?
Wong, who had 49 goals and 52 assists in his second and final season for the Xtreme in the 2010-11 season, spent much of his rookie seasons riding the bench with many younger players as the team used more experienced players.
Something had to change in Lethbridge and, with four losing years under his belt, general manager and head coach Rich Preston had to go.
Now under the tutelage of new Head Coach (and former NHL defender) Drake Berehowsky and General Manager Brad Robson, who both replaced Rich Preston during the off-season, the team has had a chance to ice younger players more often and let them learn from their mistakes.
“The (coaching) change has really been for the better,” Wong said.
“The coaches have NHL experience and really know what they’re talking about and we’ve got a group of guys who are starting to buy into the new system.”
“We have a dump-and-chase system here now, and I feel that I’ve benefited a lot from it,” he added.
“I like getting pucks deep and with my speed I like to battle down in the corners, so I can honestly say that’s been the big thing for my success this season.
In only his second season in the WHL, Wong has become a scoring threat. At 5-foot-9, he’s a small big-man with a lot to prove.
Although the Hurricanes have the worst record in the entire league and are 23 points behind the Prince Albert Raiders in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Wong says that the team is not throwing in the towel anytime soon.
Wong’s next game close to home won’t be until late in the season, when the Hurricanes will travel to the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on March 11 for a date with the Calgary Hitmen.