For so many young Canadians, getting a chance to play on the country’s national team is just about the highest honour that can be achieved. Tyson Zimmer is one of those young Canadians who had that exact dream, and he’s received some national recognition.
We’ll get to that in a little bit. But first, we’ll take a look back at Zimmer’s career to this day — one that continues to blossom. From Russell, Manitoba, Zimmer played with his home region AAA team in the 2017-2018 season. He scored 36 goals and added 33 assists for a 69 point total in just 34 games. Zimmer’s 69 points were the fifth most in all of Manitoba that season. Leading the way was a man who scored 19 goals this past season with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds in Conner Roulette.
After that season with the U15 Rangers, Zimmer made a move as he joined the Okanagan Hockey Academy U15 Prep team where, once again, Zimmer lit it up playing in the Canadian School Sport Hockey League. Zimmer scored 22 times in the regular season and added another 30 assists before tossing in two more playoff points in three games. In just two seasons of playing elite U15 hockey, Zimmer chalked up 123 points.
Now we move ahead to the day so many players are waiting for: draft day. It provides hundreds of young, talented hockey players a chance to hear their names called. Zimmer had an expectation to be drafted quite high after two great seasons and he sure didn’t have to wait long.
With the sixth overall selection, the Brandon Wheat Kings selected Zimmer. Being from Russell, Zimmer grew up watching the Wheat Kings. He frequented the Wheat City to watch one of the WHL’s most storied franchises.
“Yeah it’s awesome to get drafted high, but I’m not just going to make the team because of that,” he added. “I need to build up more skill, more power, and just get better. I’ll be competing against 20-year-olds who are much bigger and I need to show what I can do.”
Points have been easy to come by and they’ve come in chunks in the past for Zimmer. However, points only take you so far and Zimmer is completely aware of that. He knows playing in the defensive end is just as important as putting pucks into the back of the net. That’s something that he really learned first-hand during his time with Parkland a few years back, and he continues to stress play in his own end.
As Zimmer moved up to the U18 level this past season with Okanagan, he was still solid offensively with 41 points in 38 games. However, the most encouraging thing for him was his defensive play.
“Parkland was a great year for me, but honestly I was pretty clueless in my own end. My coaches really helped me turn that around,” said Zimmer. “When I went to Okanagan, they really made me focus that much more on my defensive game and it’s really helped me. Scoring is nice, but if you can’t play in your own defensive zone, it’s that much harder to have any continued success.”
As mentioned previously, Zimmer has always dreamed of getting the chance to wear the Canadian crest on his chest. He hopes ultimately he’ll get to play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships. Although that won’t happen this year, Zimmer could be well on his way to at least getting a training camp invite in the near future.
Late last month, Hockey Canada announced a roster of 113 players that were invited to its virtual national under-17 development camp. The list includes the best age-eligible players in the country, including Connor Bedard. If you’re not familiar with Bedard, he was granted “exceptional status” which was followed by being drafted first overall by the Regina Pats in the 2020 WHL Draft. He also signed his standard player contract prior to even being drafted.
Also included on the list is the Russell native who underwent upper-body surgery a couple weeks ago. In a normal year, the camp would see Canada name three rosters for the 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. However, the novel coronavirus has changed the way things are done. So instead, Zimmer and the rest of the camp invitees alongside the coaching staff meet virtually.
“It was an absolute honour when I found out I was one of the 113 players invited,” said Zimmer. “It’s incredible just to be a part of this amazing group of players. I’m really enjoying how things are going through the first couple of days.”
The camp is now underway, running through July 25. Also on the invitee list are two other Wheat Kings prospects. Nate Danielson and Rylen Roersma are attending the virtual camp as well.
Zimmer is still unable to train at this point due to his surgery a couple of weeks ago. However, he says he is feeling very good and he’s looking forward to getting back at it very soon. Zimmer is aiming to make the Wheat Kings roster.
Darren Ritchie has said in the past that Zimmer has a very bright future, and he had a good showing at last year’s main camp, his first as a member of the organization.
Training camps are tentatively scheduled to open up in mid-September.
“I’m going to have to push myself as hard as I can to achieve that goal,” concluded Zimmer. “I’d like to say I have a good amount of skill, but that only takes you so far. I have to work hard every second I’m there and we’ll see how things go.”