From four points as a rookie to his team’s top offensive weapon, one Windsor Spitfire is a perfect example of how far hard work can take you.
A lot has changed over the past four seasons for the Spitfires’ top-line center Tyler Angle. After being taken in the sixth round of the OHL Priority Selection there wasn’t a huge buzz following him. Angle wasn’t a huge point producer, putting up less than a point per game in Minor Midget AAA. However, Spitfires’ Head Coach Trevor Letowski said the team felt Angle was a value pick in the draft.
“I remember our guys really liking him when we drafted him,” said Letowski. “They felt really good about that pick. They felt he was a guy who could play in the league.”
Angle didn’t turn many heads in his first season with the team. Scoring a total of two goals and four points in 41 games. The following season Angle’s production didn’t jump by much, improving to 17 points in 67 games.
At this point Angle was a question mark, listed at 5’10 Angle doesn’t have the prototypical size expected of a bottom-six forward. Due to this, there were legitimate conversations whether Angle would have a roster spot heading into the 2018-19 season.
“Last year, in particular, we had a lot of young players. We had a lot of forwards in general and he was a guy that we weren’t sure of even as recent as the beginning of last season,” said Letowski.
Angle would end up making the team and earning a rotating spot in the top-six for the Spitfires. For the first time in his OHL career, he would provide the team with a legitimate scoring option. He would go on to finish the season with 44 points, good for fifth on the team in scoring.
“We gave him some more opportunities to play and he has just ran with it,” said Letowski.
That season would be a good enough sample for the Columbus Blue Jackets to take a shot on Angle. Taking him with the sixth last pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Making Angle the 25th and final OHL player drafted in the 2019 Draft.
“I was at home, I went golfing during the day to kinda get my mind off things,” said Angle. “As soon as I got home, I got a call from my agent. I didn’t hear the news at that time and he said Columbus is picking you.”
Angle said this came as a surprise to him as Columbus wasn’t one of the NHL teams he had interviews with throughout the season.
He would then turn his attention to his camp with the Blue Jackets, trying to soak in as much information as possible during his time with the team.
“Just trying to learn from the coaches and all the coaching staff and the general manager in Cleveland,” said Angle. “The new things they tell you that you really don’t know what to do when it comes to hockey. I think now it brings a lot of things to my game.”
Angle would be returned to the Spitfires and be slotted on the top-line to start the 2019-20 OHL season. In 13 games Angle already has half of his goals from last season with 10. Including a highlight-reel goal that would blow up online after he scored between his legs on a breakaway.
“To watch the Leafs’ game on a Saturday night and see Don Cherry talk about it was pretty cool. It just kinda blew up all over social media. Just to see myself in the video was pretty cool,” said Angle. “I think it does show guys that I do have that skill and I’m not afraid to do that stuff in a game.”
Despite the hot start to the season Angle said he doesn’t believe he is a case of a late bloomer. Instead, Angle believes he has slowly gotten better throughout each season.
“I don’t think I was too much of a late bloomer, I just think over the past years I’ve learned a lot more and my confidence level has gone up,” said Angle. “Obviously for my first year you look at the roster, coming in as a 16-year-old it was probably one of the hardest teams to make and I did that.”
Angle isn’t joking about the 2016-17 team being hard to crack. The team would go on to win the Memorial Cup following a 4-3 win over the Erie Otters. Featuring star players including the likes of Gabriel Vilardi, Logan Brown and Jeremy Bracco.
Letowski repeated much of the same when talking about Angle. Citing his continued ability to develop as one of the key reasons why Angle has turned into goal scorer he has.
“He has become our most dangerous offensive player and he is a guy I think is going to be a good pro,” said Letowski. “I think it comes with strength. A couple years ago he had a real sleight frame and those players don’t usually come in with heavy shots. I think that it’s something in his game that has slowly developed as well. Now it’s gotten to a point where it’s really dangerous.”
Angle doesn’t have far to look for a comparable in terms of carving out a career. Letowski and Angle are both listed at the same height, same weight and were both drafted in the 7th round of the NHL draft. Letowski was able to turn his career into one in which he played 616 NHL games throughout 10 seasons. Carving out a role in the bottom-six, something Letowski believes Angle is capable of.
“He is at his best when he is agitating and when he is hard to play against and in your face. It makes him more versatile, he’s not one dimensional where you have to put him on your top-line and put him on the powerplay or else you can’t play him,” said Letowski. “He’s developed in all areas and he might be able to carve out a career at the NHL level maybe as a bottom-six forward. Someone that can kill a penalty, be hard to play against and give you some energy.”
It will be interesting to see if Angle will be able to continue to play at this level. However, one thing is for sure, the growth from a possible cut player to a top-line scorer for Windsor is a great story.