‘Down on the farm’ is a bi-weekly feature series on Oil Caps prospects. Next up in this series: Tyler Thoendel. Enjoy.
By Lanny Stewart
He may not have lived in the centre of the hockey universe at an early age, but that didn’t deter Tyler Thoendel from playing the game he loves.
“I’ve always wanted to play hockey,” said the 16-year-old Oil Caps prospect who was born in Germantown, Tennessee and has lived in Little Rock, Arkansas and Denver Colorado before moving to Winnipeg with his family prior to his 10th birthday. “My mom played hockey and so ever since I could remember I was running around with a hockey stick in my hands.”
Thoendel credits his parents for the early introduction into the sport – his mother Meredith, who is originally from Winnipeg, has experience playing the game and continues to do so today – and some of his earliest recollections of playing hockey involve a spring team he played for in Memphis. He also recalls his time in Arkansas where “there was only one rink and a handful of kids that played, so nothing was too intense there.”
That passion for the game was turned up a notch after he took in his first NHL game in Colorado when he was five – and it continued to “pick up” after moving to Manitoba’s capital city, he says. Nowadays, Thoendel, a sixth round draft pick in the 2017 MJHL Bantam Draft, finds himself with the Winnipeg Wild, one of the premier clubs in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League this season. The 5-foot-9, 145-pound playmaking forward is currently third in club scoring with seven goals and 22 points in 23 games (as of Dec. 9) and he’s played a key role with the Wild, who are currently sitting in first place in the standings with a 20-2-0-1 record.
“He’s had a good run so far offensively and he’s really brought that side of his game to the next level,” said Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations for the Oil Caps. “That’s only going to continue to improve.”
Hodson was also quick to point out the young man’s confidence – and it should be beaming after Thoendel helped the Winnipeg Monarch programs he played on (bantam team two years ago and a city midget squad last year) win championships the past two seasons.
“We really just like his demeanor,” Hodson added. “There’s a lot of attributes that we like about him. He’s a high character kid and he can skate and those are things we look for in our prospects.”
Hodson went on to say that Thoendel, currently a winger with the Wild, has the offensive ability to potentially play any position up front if he does don Oil Caps colours in the future.
“That’ll depend on his progress at AAA midget and some of it is going to depend on where he wants to play and where he’s comfortable. We’re going to try not to pigeon hole guys at that level.”
Meanwhile, Troy Leslie, Oil Caps head coach and GM, didn’t mince words describing Thoendel’s skillset.
“We feel he’s going to be a very good player for us at some point moving forward,” he said. “Wherever he plays, whether it’s wing or up the middle of the ice, that’s not going to change the way he makes plays and sees how the game’s played in the offensive zone and is able to contribute that way. I think it’s just a matter of going through the process with him and trying to figure it out when he does get here where the best fit is for him.”
A scout’s take
Scott Coates, a Winnipeg-based Oil Caps scout, describes Thoendel as a “playmaker.”
“He’s got a really good puck sense and he’s very good on the power play,” Coates said. “I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be smart and consistent. He’s willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice, but I think he’s going to be more of a smart, finesse-type player.”
‘Able to fit into different roles’
Paul Krueger, head coach of the Wild, was impressed with Thoendel right off the hop during the club’s tryout sessions earlier this year.
“We felt that he really had good vision on the ice. He’s somebody that could play with different players and that’s important when you’re looking at players in the tryout process just in terms of how you’re going to fit everything together,” he said.
Krueger believes Thoendel will develop into a top-six forward when he gets to the next level.
“I would anticipate he’s going to continue to develop to where he’s in a position where when he’s 18, 19, he’ll be a first or second line guy. He’s got that offensive skill. I think players see him as a guy who’s not hard to play with… He’s able to kind of fit into different roles as you need him.”
Thoendel is currently situated on the first line with the Wild, Krueger says, and so far, so good.
“They all feed off each other and react to each other very well. He’s got good vision and can find guys and players like to play with him.”
Other tidbits about Tyler . . .
-He’s been to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. “Both trips in the summer with my dad, brother, and sister,” he said.
-He climbed to the top of a 13,500-foot mountain in Colorado two summers ago.
-Being born in the U.S., Thoendel has dual citizenship.
-Besides hockey, Thoendel enjoys playing soccer. He won a city championship when he was 11.