NHL draft pick and NCAA transfer Taylor rediscovering top form with more playing time at MacEwan

Ty Taylor tracks the play against Trinity Western last weekend. He leads MacEwan into action against Alberta on Friday night at 7 p.m., DCA (Joel Kingston photo).
Ty Taylor tracks the play against Trinity Western last weekend. He leads MacEwan into action against Alberta on Friday night at 7 p.m., DCA (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – As coverage of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft wound towards its conclusion, Ty Taylor  began to resign himself to his fate – he wasn't going to get picked.

Until he did.

"I was watching on TV and it was the seventh round, so I was like 'OK, probably not going to get drafted here,' but they went to commercial break and when they came back my name was on there."

The Tampa Bay Lightning selected him 214th overall, just four picks before the end of the proceedings at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Tex.

"I got a couple of calls from (Tampa Bay) and they told me 'hey, we drafted you.' It was fun. I was really happy. I think it was a little bit of disbelief at first."

This season, the goaltender is the second NHL draft pick in MacEwan men's hockey program history and the first in 21 years to play for the Griffins, following defenceman Chris Lane – a Boston Bruins' 1996 sixth-rounder who played on the 2000-01 squad.

Taylor will lead MacEwan into a weekend home-and-home series against the University of Alberta Golden Bears on Friday (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena) and Saturday (7 p.m., Clare Drake, both on Canada West TV presented by Co-op). 

"In this day and age you're under the microscope so much, so for an NHL team to call your name on draft day, they've definitely done their research and you've checked the boxes," said Griffins head coach Michael Ringrose. "They see you as a guy who has the potential to develop into an elite-level athlete.

"Since that time, Ty maybe didn't get the opportunity he needed to excel, but if I look at him and his size and the way he's continued to progress this year, I really think the sky's the limit for him. The potential is there. We're hoping he can recapture some of that in a Griffins uniform."

After a spectacular season with the Vernon Vipers in 2017-18 in which he posted a 1.87 GAA and .931 save percentage to win the BCHL's goaltender of the year award, Taylor was drafted by Tampa, headed to their development camp and joined the University of New Hampshire in the NCAA Div. 1 ranks.

Things were rolling.

But things don't always go as planned; development often doesn't proceed on a linear path.

"The hockey aspect didn't work out quite the way I hoped," he said of New Hampshire, where he had a 3.76 GAA and .852 save percentage in 21 starts spread out sporadically over the span of three seasons. "I didn't play too much. But I made a lot of good friends and good connections through life. I wish it went better, but you can't really do much about that."

Ty Taylor spent three seasons playing NCAA Div. 1 hockey for New Hampshire (Courtesy, UNH Athletics).

So, coming to MacEwan in the Commerce program this season for his fourth season of eligibility and first in U SPORTS has reinvigorated the Richmond, B.C. product's career.

"Like I said, I didn't have an opportunity to play too much at UNH, so coming back to a place where I can play a consistent amount has really been the difference maker," said Taylor, who registered his first shutout for the Griffins – a 29-save effort good for a 7-0 win over Trinity Western last Friday. "I found I was sitting around for a couple of weeks, maybe a month at a time sometimes in between games at New Hampshire and I think just coming back and playing a good amount has been really helpful.

"Mike's been awesome. He's just allowed me to do my thing and stay competitive. I've really appreciated it so far."

Ringrose, who was coaching the Spruce Grove Saints when Taylor first broke in with the Vipers, has long been well aware what the 6-foot-4 Delta Hockey Academy product can bring to the table.

"Ty's a guy that I've kept tabs on a long time," he said. "He was an unbelievable goalie at that (BCHL) level and seemed to just hit a patch of rotten luck. Knowing what he'd done in the past, his pedigree and watching a little bit of video and talking to our goalie coach Kurtis Mucha, it was a pretty easy decision for us to bring him in and give him an opportunity to try to recapture some of that magic."

In six games so far, he has a 3.32 GAA and .899 save percentage, embracing the challenge of lots of work on a team that's allowed 353 shots against in 10 games – the third-highest rate/game in Canada West.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable," said Taylor, who splits time in the crease with James Porter. "When you come to a new team sometimes you put a little too much pressure on yourself, but I've tried to just play my game and go with the flow and do what I can.

"I think I'm starting to get going here a little bit. It's important that everyone starts to step up now with only having 10 games left in a 20-game season."

Ty Taylor posted 29 saves to shut out Trinity Western in a 7-0 win last Friday at the Downtown Community Arena (Joel Kingston photo).

The Lightning still keep in touch, regularly giving him the resources he needs in his development. He was overjoyed to see them win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

"I went to development camp with a couple of guys who were on the team," he said. "I was really happy for them. I was really happy for Tampa because they really work hard. It's pretty evident with the staff that they have.

"They're very supportive. They give me tools to help me succeed. They've been really, really helpful. I couldn't have asked for a better team to get drafted by."

While the NHL dream remains in the back of his mind, Taylor is putting that on the backburner as he focuses on succeeding at the U SPORTS level.

"I'm trying not to think about that too much," he said. "I don't want to get ahead of myself. I'm just going to do my own thing and just allow myself to keep playing hard. Don't think about it too much, but just go with the flow here and see how it goes."

The Canadian university level has a history of developing NHL prospects, too, even if it often flies under the radar compared to the NCAA.

"U SPORTS is a really good league with a lot of really good players," said Taylor. "I think in this league, players are pretty much the same, they just don't have the first overall picks – the Powers, the Johnsons, the Newhooks, the Makars. But I think most of the players here could play on an NCAA team. It's a good league and U SPORTS doesn't get as much credit sometimes."

Taylor comes from a big family with three younger brothers who also play hockey. Trey plays for Youngstown in the USHL, while Tate is a member of the BCHL's Surrey Eagles and youngest sibling Teyce plays minor hockey for the Richmond Jets.

It's truly an incredible job by parents Merv and Julia to keep all of their boys on the ice.

"My mom and dad work pretty hard," said Ty Taylor. "My dad's a firefighter and my mom works for WorkSafe BC. And my dad does carpentry on his days off, too. They work very hard. It's obviously very expensive to play hockey. I was very lucky to have them work so hard and get us all through hockey."