The Gladiators entered the Coliseum, got their hockey pants kicked, and left...
For T.J. Syner, Confidence is Key
For those not aware of him, T.J. Syner is in a somewhat unique position at this year’s development camp (and not just because he’s already under contract with Hershey for the 2012-13 season). He’s small, fast, and has the potential for a very bright future in hockey.
Syner is one of three players from last summer’s d-camp who wasn’t Caps property at the time (Hershey teammate David Civitarese and former-Chicago Express defenseman Scott Wietecha are the other two). He has ten games of AHL experience, as a result of the spring’s perfect storm of injuries-and-call-ups for the Bears. And, perhaps the most-commented on aspect of his game, he’s behind only the 5′ 8″ Barry Almeida and David Vallorani for the title of smallest-stature player on the roster.
As his college career came to a close, he earned himself a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award (college hockey’s player of the year) while co-captain of the UMass-Amherst Minutemen. It’s no surprise that he was also named team MVP. In useless-but-interesting trivia, he started off playing roller hockey before transitioning to the ice at age eight.
Syner’s speed has been noted before, and it continues to make him stand out on the ice. Earlier this week, Hershey’s Head Coach Mark French called Syner “one of the quickest players I’ve ever been associated with,” and both coach and player agree that the games played in the AHL this year have had a positive impact on his development.
“I think I gained a lot of [confidence]… from playing hockey in Hershey, playing at such a high level out there. Obviously, I was nervous going out there, but even for next year, I think playing out there those last ten games really helped…It was an unbelievable experience.”
While an inescapable part of his game, Syner’s size is something that won’t be held against him in Hershey, where mid-season 2011-2 saw three players 5′ 9″ or under in the top scorers of the American Hockey League – Keith Aucoin (1), Chris Bourque (2), and Jacob Micflikier (7). Two of those three have signed elsewhere in 2012-13, and Aucoin’s plans are unconfirmed, so there’s room on the roster for Syner to stake a claim this fall. “You’re talking about skilled players leaving our lineup, TJ’s a skilled player, so he should logically get more of an opportunity.” (French)
Syner’s well-aware of both the challenges and opportunities ahead of him, as a player who falls into the category of undersized. “You see all the success smaller guys had [in Hershey], and it gives you something to look forward to, something to work for as well.”
After signing with the Bears in March, Syner played ten games. He earned a single assist, two penalty minutes, and a -2 rating.
He wore #24 during the 2011-12 season in Hershey, where he played with fellow 2012 d-camp attendees Barry Almeida, David Civitarese, and Cameron Schilling.
He’s wearing #84 with Group B/Team Red at camp this year, and has notched at least two assists during the scrimmage series to date.