Quick — who led the Cleveland Monsters in regular season scoring in 2015-16? No, this is not a trick question premised upon the franchise’s name change. It was T.J. Tynan, the Blue Jackets’ 3rd round pick (#66 overall) in 2011 — a pick they received from Ottawa for Nikita Filatov. He managed that feat while scoring only 6 goals, but excelling in assists, with 40 — 11 more than the next player, Michael Chaput. His 46 points in 76 games nosed out Chaput (45) and Daniel Zaar (43) for the scoring honor. Of course, his 76 games was also 25 more than Oliver Bjorkstrand, who appeared in 12 NHL games last season. Such is the task of comparing AHL numbers.
Tynan’s effort during the regular season was emblematic of the team as a whole — solid all-around play, with nothing flashy in the numbers. The Monsters had only one guy with 20+ goals (Zaar), but had eight players in double digits. Tynan has good awareness on the ice, good passing, and is a solid player in all three zones. He has more scoring touch than he has displayed, according to many observers, but has done a good job of setting others up for scoring chances. Tynan can struggle a bit in the defensive end, which shows up in lower +/- rankings than his peers with the club. He struggled a bit in the Calder Cup playoffs, notching only a single goal and 6 assists, and was -7 in the +/- category. (Still my least favorite hockey statistic, but somewhat useful when comparing guys on the same club.)
Tynan is 24 years old, having had a banner career at Notre Dame, where he was the CCHA Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, the CCHA Tournament MVP in 2012-13, and was named to two All Star teams. He wore the “A” for the Fighting Irish, and posted 161 points in 164 games in South Bend.
One big question for Tynan — Will he be able to handle the physical toll that NHL hockey exacts? Tynan is only 5’8” tall, and weighs in at a mere 165 pounds. When the heat of the playoffs came, and the intensity ramped up, his numbers suffered. Speaking of numbers, here’s a statistical snapshot of his career thus far:
Outlook for 2016-2017
Tynan received a vote of confidence from the front office this year when he received a one-year, two-way deal, while guys like MIchael Chaput and Michael Paliotta were sent packing. In a very, very real sense, 2016-17 will be an audition year for Tynan, who has yet to set foot on NHL ice.
Certainly, Tynan will start the year in Cleveland, but expect him to be among the call-ups when injuries or poor performance dictate. The Blue Jackets will want to see if Tynan can elevate his game to the NHL level, and withstand the physical demands of the role. At age 24, it is make-or-break time for Tynan, as the organization is simply too deep with young skill to carry guys likely to be AHL lifers on the contract list. Chaput is a good example of a guy who flashed some decent skill in his early call-ups, but could not sustain that level of performance.
Despite his size, Tynan has the advantage of being a center, which is a position of need for the Blue Jackets, and has the versatility to move to the wing. Again, however, “good” may not be good enough, and it will be up to him to raise the bar significantly. He will be a fun story to follow.