It took close to five months, but Tyler Wotherspoon is back in the National Hockey League (NHL).
The Cloverdale native and former Valley West Hawk of the BC Hockey Major Midget League, Wotherspoon was recalled by the Calgary Flames from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Stockton Heat last week.
The defenceman played his first NHL game of the season last Friday (Feb. 19) at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary against the Vancouver Canucks.
Wotherspoon played just shy of 16 minutes, and finished the game with a plus-two rating in a 5-2 victory.
Drafted in the second round, 57th overall, by the Flames in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the 22 year-old turned pro for the 2013-14 season after four seasons of Major Junior hockey with the Portland Winter Hawks.
Wotherspoon attended the Flames NHL camp, then was sent to their AHL af filiate Abbotsford Heat. At the tail end of the season, he was called up for the Flames and played the final 14 games of the regular season, collecting four assists and four penalty minutes.
He spent last season with the Adirondack Flames of the AHL, playing one NHL game in Calgary. He was then was once again assigned to the AHL at the start of this year, suiting up for the Stockton Heat.
Wotherspoon admitted it was difficult to remain patient while awaiting another shot at playing in the NHL.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I’m sure for every player down in the AHL it’s frustrating waiting for their opportunity to get it. It’s part of the business and you’ve got to shove that to the side and really work on your game and have patience.
“I really focused on my game and trying to do the little to make big adjustments. I’ve just been playing well, I think.”
After the home game against the Canucks, Wotherspoon has played twice in southern California. Sunday evening against the Anaheim Ducks, he played 14 minutes and was a plus-one in a 5-2 loss. Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings, he saw 12 minutes of ice time in a 2-1 loss.
“I feel a lot more mature now. I think the game slowed down a little bit for me, being older,” he mused.
“This is a huge opportunity for me. It’s been a long season down there but getting back up here to get a shot to prove that I can play up here full-time is huge for me and I’m going to try to make the most of it.”