On Jan. 25, 1997, a Saturday for those of us who function without eidetic memories, the Myers family welcomed a son, named Philippe, born in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Almost 800 miles to the south, on that same day, Eric Desjardins — along with his defensive corps — was having a tough time repelling the Detroit Red Wings, and the Philadelphia Flyers eventually dropped a 4-1 home decision in what became the first glimpse of a Stanley Cup Finals preview.
Desjardins, who was born 28 years earlier in the central northwest mining town of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, had to leave home to play in juniors, settling with the Granby Bisons in the more populated southwestern townships for two seasons. Myers, on the other hand, looked well northward at age 16 and wound up in Desjardins’ hometown to begin his career.
The Sweet and Lowdown
Myers, 19, who just completed his third season with the club, exploded from irrelevance into primacy with a strong campaign. After totaling a paltry two goals and 12 points in his first two seasons, he picked up a team-high 17 goals and finished second to Jeremy Lauzon (Boston, 2nd round 2015) among all defensemen with 45 points in 63 regular season tilts.
In the just-completed postseason, which saw Rouyn-Noranda win its first ever league title and advance to the championships of Canadian juniors, Myers again finished second on the blueline in scoring, collecting 16 points (4G, 12A) in 20 appearances for the national runners-up.
What a way to reward Flyers GM Ron Hextall, who took what then looked like a big gamble last September and signed Myers to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Myers, along with former Kootenay Ice and current Red Deer Rebel winger Luke Philp, were both undrafted camp invites who showed up in Voorhees last July. It was the former who presented enough of an impression to get hooked onto the franchise, which now has a prospect pool on the back end about as deep as some trenches in the Pacific Ocean.
Former NHL GM Craig Button had Myers 38th on his list of top 50 prospects at mid-season, and that ranking is sure to be blasted out of the water once Button reconfigures those numbers. I had Myers buried deep in my own cockeyed prospect rankings in the preseason, with a total dearth of info the reason. That’s also bound to change drastically. If you’re into that sort of thing, crowing about how many high-ranking kids the Flyers have in the wings it’s a source of great pride.
If you’re the type of fan, analyst or professional who waits to see how Myers and his ilk perform under professional pressure, you’re going to have to wait at least another two years before he gets his shot.
Due to age restrictions, Myers has one more year of development in the QMJHL on the docket (and eligibility for the 2017 World Juniors) before he’s able to move up to the Phantoms in the AHL.
Wave of the Future
That kind of redundancy might turn out to be a boon in the long run.
As former Rimouski Oceanic and current Phantom Sam Morin still treads the line between untapped potential and potential disappointment at Lehigh Valley, Myers — a player similar in build, but possessing the edge over Morin in both speed and puck movement — could possibly be the guy who causes Hextall to pause when considering whom to keep somewhere down the line.
Myers, a right-handed shot, spent the season rotating between right and left defense and spent time with Lauzon as his primary partner. At his best, he can glide effortlessly from defensive coverage to offense, shown in the two clips below. The first clip is from October:
And the second from early in may during the QMJHL playoffs:
One thing which might be a source of concern for the lanky rearguard, is that he has yet to grow into his frame. A prime example of how some added muscle would help, is this clip, showing how he was easily laid low on an illegal hit, sustained against his hometown team earlier in the playoffs:
In addition, Myers appeared to be slowed during the Memorial Cup tournament, and had to leave the championship game after suffering a knee-to-knee hit from London’s Owen MacDonald before the end of the Knights’ eventual 3-2 triumph.
Despite being able to use his body to block out Red Deer forwards, Myers seemed unable to use his speed, and sat out the latter portion of the Huskies’ semifinal win over the host Rebels. For the five-game tournament, Myers ended up with 1G, 1A, plus-3 and 10 shots on goal.
The Huskies were inaugurated 20 years prior, and in that span, have only missed out on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postseason twice — their first full season and then not again until 2011 — and four times lost in the league finals (1999, 2005, ’07, ’13). In 2015-16, Rouyn-Noranda set the ‘Q’ on fire, going 54-9-5 with a league-high 113 points and winning the title to gain their-first-ever berth in the Memorial Cup.