At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, it’s hard to imagine Tyler Thorpe ever flew under the radar and escaped notice in the hockey world.
The fact is, he is one of only two players on this year’s Vancouver Giants roster that was not selected in the WHL bantam draft and he spent time honing his craft in the PJHL and BCHL before catching on with the Giants last year.
Taking into account his extra-large frame, righthanded shot and his nice start to the 2023-24 season that has him leading the team with with eight goals in 10 games, you can bet those who hadn’t paid attention before are certainly doing so now.
Thorpe is learning to use his size to advantage and work with his linemates to do damage in scoring areas.
“They’re (goals) just coming around the net right now and using my shot to get some goals as well,” says Thorpe, who turned 18 in August. “I think Ty Halaburda is one that I’ve enjoyed playing with most and I think we’ve been the most productive.”
Heading into this season, Thorpe focused heavily on his foot speed, which is something most big-body forwards need to address in their development. It’s paid off over the first month of the season but something else that’s contributed to Thorpe’s readiness for this moment is the 2021-22 season that he spent with the Richmond Sockeyes.
He was 16 years old for the entirety of that campaign yet showed promise with a productive season and good contributions in the playoffs. It put him on a path to where he is now.
“I was playing against older players and that helps because when I got comfortable playing in the PJHL, I felt confident playing elsewhere,” says Thorpe. “So definitely playing against older, stronger, faster players gave me more confidence when I went to go try out for other teams.”
Not only that, the professional environment the Sockeyes offered allowed Thorpe to thrive and set his sights on the future.
“It was great,” says Thorpe. “There was great ownership, great management, it was a great coaching staff and the culture there is just probably the best in the league and it’s just a really well-run team.”
The teammates and coaches he overlapped with in Richmond left their mark on him and continue to shape who he is as a player and person.
“I would say (then Sockeyes head coach) Bayne Koen had a big influence on me,” recalls Thorpe. “Garrett Wicks, Tanner Gushel and Vincent Thrum were probably the three players that had the biggest influence on me.”
Thorpe has been through the NHL Draft process once and though he was listed among North American skaters heading into the 2023 draft, no one was quite ready to take a chance on a then-17-year-old who needed to brush up on his skating.
He’s taken steps to address that and is seeing the early rewards. Team success remains at the centre of his concentration, regardless of what scouts and other talent evaluators are noticing.
“I’m simply just going to do the best I can to help the team win,” says Thorpe. “I’m not going to really focus on being drafted or focus on getting attention, I’m just going to play the game I know.”
Those in the know in the hockey world will be getting to know his game as well.