Midway through the season, two goaltenders had emerged as the top options for the 2022 NHL draft. In Europe, it’s Topias Leinonen of JYP in Finland. In North America, it’s Tyler Brennan of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.
Scouts like Brennan’s combination of size, flexibility and athleticism, but it has been the more recent development of calmness in the 18-year-old’s game that has talent hawks impressed: the kid plays less busy in the crease than he used to, and that’s a good thing. Playing on a middle-of-the-pack Cougars squad, Brennan has often been peppered with shots, facing more than 50 in a game on three separate occasions by early February. The mental side of the game has been crucial for him. “My year has been up and down,” Brennan said. “There’s been some rough games and some really good games, but I’ve focused on bouncing back from those rough games and having a lot more good games. A big part of that is being calm and not letting things bother me, putting the bad things behind me and getting better every day. My ability to bounce back this year has been the best of my entire life, and having a calm mindset has really helped.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Winnipeg native watches a lot of Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom for inspiration on the ice, but Brennan also grew up as a fan of Braden Holtby when the veteran was with Washington. Holtby’s mental game has also been influential on Brennan.
Another key netminder in Brennan’s career to date is junior vet Taylor Gauthier, who was Brennan’s battery mate in Prince George until a recent trade to the Portland Winterhawks. Needless to say, the Gauthier deal gave Brennan a lot more responsibility in net. “Obviously every goalie wants to be the starter, and I’m happy to finally take over that role,” Brennan said. “I was ready for it. There’s more responsibility, and your playing time shoots up. I like it a lot more, going to the rink knowing you’re the guy. Being goalie partners with Gauthier those two years set me up for success, and he taught me a lot.”
Now Brennan also has the draft to be excited about, and he has been doing plenty of Zoom interviews and questionnaires – the latter of which are always fascinating. One question that stuck out was choosing what animal he’d like to be. “I said an eagle,” Brennan said. “I’ve always wanted to fly around, that would be pretty cool.”
And if he can soar in net, he’ll make the Cougars – and an NHL team – very happy.