One Tall Drink Of Water
At 6-foot-8 — 6-foot-9? — the Buffalo Sabres blueliner is noticeable from the pre-game skate on at any NHL game involving the Sabres, but its time to understand that Myers is noteworthy for something beyond his unusual height.
So far, he's the NHL's best rookie this season on this scorecard, an early leader for the Calder Trophy.
Now, this is no easy award for a freshman defenceman to capture. Only one rearguard — Barrett Jackman in 2003 — has won the Calder in the past 11 years, and if the multi-talented Drew Doughty wasn't good enough last year, you have to wonder what defender actually could be.
But watching Myers live in two games last week against the Canadiens and the Rangers convinced these eyes that he's not just the real deal, but possibly shaping up into a better blueliner than anyone ever thought he would.
Don't forget, he was the 12th pick of the 2008 NHL entry draft, selected after coveted blueliners Zach Bogosian (Thrashers), Alex Pietrangelo (Blues) and Luke Schenn (Leafs). Toronto fans will get a chance to compare Bogosian and Schenn — both sophomores now — head-to-head tonight at the ACC.
Myers played an extra year with the Kelowna Rockets before cracking the Sabres lineup this fall — a move it would appear both Pietrangelo and Schenn could have found useful — and so far he has been terrific.
He skated 23:06 against the Habs and then followed that up with 23:49 against the Rangers on Saturday as his duties continue to increase in Buffalo. He's a lot more than a stay-at-home defenceman, in case you're under the impression that he never leaves his zone, and is proving to be remarkably agile and mobile.
He plays a regular shift and kills penalties, but also joins the rush and quarterbacks the Sabres power play, which has helped him register 15 points in 26 games. He's a force, something along the lines of the right-handed Chris Pronger some were projecting before his status seemed to drop a little before the '08 draft. How about a modern version of Kjell Samuelsson, but with hands?
Born in Houston, where he lived until he was 10, Myers nonetheless ended up playing for Canadian national teams after moving north and skated for Team Canada in last year's world junior championships in Ottawa.
The list of strong NHL rookie-of-the-year candidates is long and seemingly growing. Philly's James van Riemsdyk was the league's rookie-of-the-month for November. John Tavares (Islanders) and Matt Duchene (Avalanche) have drawn headlines, while other rookie defenceman drawing good reviews include Victor Hedman (Lightning) and Matt Gilroy (Rangers).
Right now, however, Myers is the best of the best. Time folks started noticing.