Thu Apr 12
Written By: Watts, Jesse

Tyler Johnson finished off an outstanding four-year WHL career with the Spokane Chiefs last year. Now, the 21-year-old from Spokane, WA, is enjoying a tremendous rookie season in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals.

The 5’9”, 175-lb centerman, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in March 2011, has made a seamless transition to the professional ranks, and currently finds himself among the AHL scoring leaders while helping the Admirals to the best record in the League.

Drafted by the Chiefs in the 11th round of the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft, Johnson made the Chiefs as a 17-year-old in 2007-08. The diminutive pivot helped the Chiefs win the 2008 WHL championship – he was the MVP of the playoffs – and the MasterCard Memorial Cup. He also helped Team USA win the Gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships.

Through his four seasons in the WHL, Johnson put up 128 goals and 282 points in 266 games, including 53 goals and 115 points in his final campaign in 2010-11. He was also named the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player and was a finalist for WHL Player of the Year last year.

Having gone undrafted in the NHL Draft, Johnson attended a few NHL training camps before the Lightning took a chance by signing him. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman’s move has been paying off so far, as Johnson has been a dominant player for the team’s AHL affiliate this year.

Though a year removed from his time with his hometown Spokane Chiefs, Johnson still keeps tabs on how his former team is doing.


On his successful jump to the AHL…
“Things have been going really well. At the start of the season, I knew I had a lot of things I needed to work on to get better and become a better player. But, my coaching staff and the guys on the team have really helped me out a lot. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more comfortable and confident, so I’ve been able to get back to playing my game.”

On adjusting to life in the AHL…
“It’s probably been a bit different for me than for most of the other guys who make the jump because I was playing for my hometown team in the WHL, and living at home. It was definitely a lot different for me to get used to living on my own and cooking meals for myself, but it’s been a pretty good adjustment. With our team, here, all the guys live together. In the early part of the season, it was great to have the older guys around so I could learn the ropes and learn about everyday life. They all helped me with the change.”

On reuniting with former Chiefs’ goaltender Dustin Tokarski…
“Dustin and I played together for three years in Spokane, and he’s a great guy. It really helped me early on to have him around. In those times when you’re feeling down, it was nice to have him to talk to. We’d talk about the times we had in Spokane, winning the Memorial Cup. He’s always the guy I feel comfortable talking to about anything.”

On his success on the ice for the Admirals…
“The biggest thing I had to work on was the mentality of playing at this level. You learn your role and you play your position and you play within the system the coaches set out. I had to work a lot in the defensive zone, but have learned so much thanks to our coaches. Obviously, the guys up here are bigger, stronger and faster, so you have to learn to play at that pace. You have to think quicker and play smarter. It took a while to adapt to the speed and quickness of the players, but now I think I have come a long way. Now, I have been given more responsibility, and am having some success.”

On keeping in touch with the Chiefs…
“I still text with lots of the guys, I talk to (head coach) Don Nachbaur and (general manager) Tim Speltz. I’ve followed them on the WHL Website this season and seen a couple games online. It’s pretty cool how they managed to come back from a 2-0 deficit to Vancouver and win that first-round series.”

On how his time in the WHL helped get him to where he is now…
“Without spending those years in the WHL, there is no way I would be the person I am today or where I am today. I learned so much and developed into the player I am because of the coaching and competition in the League. I can’t say enough good things about the League and the Spokane Chiefs organization. From the time I was drafted when I was 14 or 15, everything (the Chiefs) told me about the League and the organization proved to be true. The WHL and the Chiefs did so much for me and my family. I won’t forget what the Chiefs have meant to me, and I hope someday to return the favor to the organization.”



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