#17 Tyler Wotherspoon
Team: Stockton Heat
Drafted: 57th Overall in 2011 (Round 2)
Tyler Wotherspoon is 1 of 2 players remaining in the Flames organization from a quite successful 2011 draft. Wotherspoon, alongside Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Johnny Gaudreau and Laurent Brossoit have all played NHL games, a pretty impressive result for any draft. With Baertschi, Granlund traded to the Canucks and Brossoit to the Oilers, just Wotherspoon and Gaudreau remain in the organization. If the Flames eventually get around to signing him, this could be Tyler Wotherspoon’s year. Now with 3 professional seasons under his belt, Wotherspoon looks prime for a breakthrough to the NHL. For real this time.
Wotherspoon has spent the past 3 seasons going up and down between the AHL and NHL. After getting into 14 NHL games in the 2013-14 season, he spent the 2014-15 season constantly being recalled to the NHL and then sent back down without getting to play in games. In fact, he did not get into the line up until the meaningless game 82. This was followed up with Bob Hartley showing a complete lack of trust in Wotherspoon in the 2014-15 playoffs. While the Flames’ defensive core was absolutely ravaged with injury, Wotherspoon averaged only 06:38 of ice time in the 6 games he was able to get into. This brought up a lot of questions about Wotherspoon’s future with the organization and as an NHLer. However, this past season he managed to play himself back into the picture with the big club. After being sent back to the AHL at the outset of the season, as injuries (and a lengthy suspension) occurred, Wotherspoon was recalled and looked very capable in a third pairing role alongside Jakub Nakladal.
The upcoming season will be a big one for Wotherspoon, but there are still a few barriers he will need to overcome to become a regular in the line up. The main blockage of an NHL spot for Wotherspoon comes from Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland and potentially Ladislav Smid. Wotherspoon likely already has more on-ice value than Engelland and Smid, but with their hefty contracts he will have to force the Flames to keep him up. There are also is competition between for him with defenseman in his age group, as Jyrki Jokipakka and Brett Kulak could take away his opportunity. There will be an intriguing training camp battle on the backend. As I wrote earlier, I’d like him to have a chance to play with Dougie Hamilton, but it remains to be seen if that will occur. A defensive defenseman that is mobile, Wotherspoon’s skill set is one that could be very beneficial for the Flames defensive core. With a new head coach in Calgary, Wotherspoon has a clean slate and the opportunity to make anything happen.