October 08, 2013

Tyler Arnason

Second generation star Tyler Arnason saw a promising NHL career fizzle out. As to why exactly remains a mystery to this observer.

Arnason broke into the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003-04 and was a strong Calder trophy candidate as rookie of the year. As you will see, he had a strong history as a top rookie.

Tyler's father was Chuck Arnason who played over 400 games  in the NHL back in the 1970s. Chuck, was a travelling man, playing in 8 different NHL cities in 8 seasons! Tyler was born in Oklahoma City, four days after the Minnesota North Stars traded Chuck to the Washington Capitals. Chuck had been playing with the North Stars farm team in OKC.

Tyler was raised in Winnipeg where Chuck retired and operated a driving range. He played for the South blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1996-97, chalking up 85 points in 50 games to earn rookie of the year honours in that league.

The next season he headed to North Dakota and had 82 points in 52 games for the Fargo-Moorehead Ice Sharks of the USHL.

He followed that with three strong seasons at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, scoring 131 points in 118 games.

The Blackhawks selected him as a long shot back in 1998, drafting him 183rd overall. But he paid dividends immediately. In his first pro-season with the Hawks top farm team, the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, he led his teams in goals (26), points (56) and power play goals (11). Throw in 4 game winners in just 60 games played and he was awarded the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Trophy as the AHL's top rookie.

Tyler credited his dad with giving him that extra edge to make it to the NHL.

"|He had a pretty positive role. He would tell me what he though, and he was always right. But I didn't realize that until I was about 17."

Tyler always regretted never being able to see his dad play in the NHL.

"Only in those old-timers exhibitions, when they all had those big guts. Maurice Richard would referee, and the old time Montreal Canadiens would play. I was exposed to a lot of legendary players when I was eight and nine years old. It was pretty cool."

But Tyler had his own idols.

"Dougie Gilmour, when he started in Toronto and got all those points. Teemu Selanne, when he was with the Winnipeg Jets. And I had my picture take with Alex Zhamnov when I was 14 years old."

Tyler explained why he chose to go to St. Cloud State University, a college not exactly known for its hockey grads.

"It was up to me, but my dad once had a scholarship to the University of Denver and he regretted that he never took it. A lot of guys come out of college and go to the NHL now. I feel if you're gonna make it, you're gonna make it."

Tyler Arnason did make it, playing in 487 games in the NHL, but things started to sour after his impressive rookie season. He had developed a reputation as a player who was never in as good of shape as he should have been. The lost lock-out season probably did not help him in that regard.

Arnason was a shifty pivot and solid playmaker but he struggled with consistency, especially as the season dragged on. Cue the fitness criticisms. He was a tricky stickhandler who protected the puck well but he lacked explosiveness in his skating to really surprise defenses. He did have a penetrating shot but too often he shot from too far out. Defensively he struggled with consistency but shook off early-career criticisms to be an average player without the puck. His poor face-off proficiency was a concern, however.

The Hawks traded Arnason to Ottawa late in the 2006 season. Arnason completely struggled in Ottawa, going goalless in 19 games to finish the season. He was released that summer.

Arnason signed with the Colorado Avalanche and spent the next three seasons with Avs. After a solid first season, his offensive game declined. He was out of the NHL by 2009 and explored options in Europe, playing in several countries.

All along he could always count on his dad to give him advice.

"He owns a nine-hold golf course and driving range in Winnipeg, so he has nothing to do in the winter except bug me," he laughs.

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