February 8, 2011

Who is Ty Wishart?

It may have taken a while for Ty Wishart to get his chance to show his stuff on the Islanders blue line, but when that time came it ended up being a fairly successful first weekend.

Wishart, acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the January 1st trade that sent beloved net minder Dwayne Roloson the other way, was called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on January 31st, the day after the NHL All Star Game. Wishart had five assists in 12 games with the Sound Tigers after posting a 4-14-18 line in 31 games with Tampa's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

In general Wishart appeared to play well - nothing spectacular, but didn't always make any glaring mistakes. The play was enough for the Isles as they decided it was the time they gave Wishart his chance. He didn't get into the Isles first two games after the break, which were both on the road. The team returned to Long Island and held practice on Friday morning, giving us our first look at the 6'4", 222 pound defenseman in person.

I headed out to practice Friday with the main goal of speaking a few minutes with Wishart in order to get to know him better as a person and a player. I feel like there is only so much you can get by reading reports and watching videos online, so what better way than to see him in action, even if it was just a practice scenario.

I watched Wishart fairly closely from the end where I was sitting. Seven defensemen practiced, with Wishart often running drills with Bruno Gervais. There were a couple of instances where he screwed up, like making a bad pass, and he would show frustration. Others weren't as animated as he was when making a mistake.

For a guy his size, Wishart's skating isn't the worst in the world. It's an area of his game that is still a bit raw, but very serviceable. He is pretty mobile, and his defensive awareness is very good. When he was drafted, one of the points of emphasis of his game was that he can think the game at a high level and is almost always in the right position.

But this is something many Islanders fans have figured out by now after finally getting to watch Wishart in his Isles debut. Wishart played just over 15 minutes against the Senators on Saturday, registering two assists and a couple of hits.

Ty Wishart has his chance now. Photo by C. Hessel
After practice on Friday, I sat down with Wishart. One of the questions I asked was if he had been told when he would get in a game. All he could say was that there was some talks about playing Saturday, but there were no guarantees. He got that chance and in my opinion, made the most of his first impression.

Speaking of first impressions, when I went up and introduced myself to Ty I could see immediately why he was named Norfolk's "Man of the Year" after this past season. A great kid with a great personality. Hopefully, things work out for him and he develops while he's here.

Chris Hessel: A lot of Islanders fans since the trade are wondering about Ty Wishart. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - as a defenseman, how you got into hockey - things like that?

Wishart: Well, obviously it was the same thing as most Canadians. You grow up with the game. I grew up playing on a little pond in Ontario and went out West and continued from there.

As far as my game, I think I'm a two-way defenseman and hopefully I get a chance to get into the line-up and show the fans what I can do.

CH: Is there a player out there you grew up watching, a defenseman, that you try and emulate yourself after?

TW: No, not really. I didn't watch a whole lot of hockey growing up so I don't really model myself after anyone I don't think. I just try to play my own game and try to do the best I can.

CH: How did you find out about the trade (to the Isles)?

TW: The GM came in after the game in Wilkes-Barre and told me I got traded and we let the guys know and I went to Bridgeport from there.

CH: As a young player, you've been traded first in a package for Dan Boyle, who was very important to his team and then you were traded for Dwayne Roloson, another important player. What does that say to you as a message of faith, in this case from the Islanders?

TW: I don't know, but I'm definitely getting a pretty good trade card going on here! It feels like they want me and that's always a good feeling, going to a team that will give up a pretty good guy for you. That's definitely a pretty good feeling.

CH: Last year and this year both in the AHL, you seem to have picked up your play from a few seasons back. What's different for you, what has changed or what has gotten better?

TW: Confidence. My first year in the league I was pretty tentative and maybe didn't see the plays that I seem to be able to make now. It's definitely a huge confidence thing.


ISLES TAKE ON LEAFS: Wishart and the Isles prepare to take on the Maple Leafs Tuesday night at the Coliseum. The Leafs are a team that has struggled overall this season, but have played better of late in front of young net minder James Reimer. There is potentially some off ice problems going on behind the scenes with Phil Kessel and head coach Ron Wilson, but both have come out and denied that. Brian Burke meanwhile has said neither of them are going anywhere. Kessel has not registered a goal in 10 games, and has been pointless in the last five.

The Isles need to come out hard here and not take anything for granted. Kessel has good career numbers against the Isles (8-5-13 in 16 games) and this could be his opportunity to break out of his slump.

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