One Step Ahead
Blue Jackets prospect Tynan's unexpected first year at Notre Dame leads to success
T.J. Tynan wasn’t supposed to be a Sophomore this season.
But thanks to a last minute signing and a phone call a year ago, the Blue Jackets draft pick is in his second successful season at Notre Dame instead of being just another Freshman trying to find his way in the CCHA.
Tynan played the 2009-10 season with the Unites States Hockey League’s Des Moines Buccaneers and lead the league in assists, while ranking fifth in points en route to being named to the USHL All-Rookie Team. He was expected to return for a second season with the Bucs in 2010-11, but Notre Dame center Kyle Palmieri signed with the Anaheim Ducks, leaving a forward spot open on the Fighting Irish roster.
“It was a wacky situation where Palmieri signed with the Anaheim Ducks and they had another spot, so they called me up,” Tynan said. “I was originally supposed to go back to Des Moines for another year, but (Notre Dame) called me in for that last forward spot and that’s how I ended up here.”
It turned out to be a great move. Tynan scored 23 goals and added 31 assists for 54 points in 44 games with Notre Dame during his freshman season in 2010-11. He led the Irish and ranked seventh in the nation in points. He has no regrets about the last minute change.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” he said. “And coming here, obviously, was a great decision and we had a great season last year. Really, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever.”
He was named the CCHA Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-CCHA while helping a young Notre Dame team reach the Frozen Four. The surprise season the team and Tynan had last year has worn off.
“I am sure teams look into that and see the season we had last year and notice it more,” Tynan said. “But we can’t worry about that. We just have to keep playing like we always play and have the same intensity and competitiveness we have every night and we should be fine.”
Notre Dame has been fine, as they have opened the season with a 10-5-3 record and entered this week ranked seventh in the nation. Tynan leads the Irish and CCHA in points with 6-19-25 in 18 games. It’s also good enough to rank third in the nation in points. He was named to Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2012 World Junior Championships on Dec. 5.
His point total has remained roughly the same this season, but it’s how he’s getting the points that has changed compared to a year ago.
“I think (having more assists this season) is more the attention that my linemates and I have been getting,” Tynan said. “I have been passing the puck a little more trying to break down the defense.
“And one of my linemates, Anders Lee, has been having a great season, so I just keep giving him the puck and things are happening.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson likes what Tynan brings to the table.
“He’s a high energy player that creates and the fact that he competes so hard, with his skill level and skating, it makes him a real effective player for us,” Jackson said. “He’s a little dynamo. I love him as a player.”
At quick glance, Blue Jackets fans will note Tynan’s size (5-foot-8, 167 pounds) and numbers at the collegiate level are very similar to another prospect - Cam Atkinson. Atkinson, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 172 pounds, had 31-21-52 in 39 games with Boston College in 2010-11. Tynan agrees the similarities are there.
“I have only seen him play a couple of times but it looks like he has a lot speed, which I like to have in my game,” Tynan said. “But he’s more of a scorer. He’s got a nice shot… I may be more of a passer, but you can tell he is competitive and so am I. The intensity helps us because we’re so small.”
Tynan was the Blue Jackets second pick, 66th overall, in last June’s Entry Draft. And despite being drafted, he has not changed the way he plays. He only looks to improve and it’s something Jackson has noted.
“Last year I told him, the two things he had to do better were that he had to learn to play better in his own end and he had to be better on face-offs,” Jackson said. “Well, he took that to heart and he’s been better in both areas.”
“No matter what, you have to play the same, you have to work hard, you have to do the same thing you always do,” Tynan said. “And just because a team drafts me doesn’t mean I have to change up my game.”
Now he’s hoping for another successful season with the Fighting Irish and a return trip to the Frozen Four.
“It’s been a blast. The guys are great, the coaches are great,” he said. “It’s been a great experience so far and we’ve been winning which is also nice, we just got to keep that going.”