Tye Felhaber would be the first to admit that the 2015-16 season didn’t go the way he’d hoped.
The Saginaw Spirit forward, the club’s first round (10th overall) pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection scored 20 goals as a rookie, eager to build off that success as a sophomore.
With just six points (4-2–6) through his first 24 games however, the Pembroke, Ontario, native found himself frustrated and returned from the Christmas break with a new attitude.
“It was a tough start for me,” he recalled. “I wasn’t playing with very much confidence and found myself battling to stay in the lineup, limited to a third or fourth line role.”
Things would turn around for Felhaber as a productive December kick-started his offensive drive, seeing him finish with 32 points (14-18–32) over his final 40 games.
A late season switch from centre to Mitchell Stephens’ wing proved fruitful, a chemistry the Spirit plan to further explore early on this season.
“Mitch is a world class player who has done a lot to help me during my time with the Spirit,” said Felhaber of his linemate. “When you play with a player who is that talented and intelligent, it can really make a big difference.”
Felhaber, who didn’t hear his name called during the 2016 NHL Draft, has set his sights on having the opportunity to take the stage next summer.
“This is a big season for Tye,” said Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill. “He’s worked incredibly hard this summer and has returned to camp in great shape. We think he has all the ability in the world to be a big point producer in our league.”
Though he wasn’t drafted, Felhaber had the chance to attend Development Camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs, something that has inspired him heading into 2016-17.
“I had a lot of fun in Toronto,” he said. “It was quite the experience and it really inspired me to keep working hard and pursuing my goal of playing in the NHL.”
The 18-year-old will have the opportunity to play under a new head coach with the Spirit this season. Former ECHL Coach of the Year Spencer Carbery takes over behind the bench after interim coach Moe Mantha took the reins from Greg Gilbert in February.
Through the ups and downs of last season, Felhaber says the Spirit remained confident in him.
“It means a lot to have a guy like Dave Drinkill pull you aside when things aren’t going well and just re-assure you that it’s going to get better, which it has,” added Felhaber. “I’m glad that last year is behind me and that a new season is right around the corner.”
The feeling is mutual, and Felhaber will be given every opportunity to get off to a good start.
“We’re big believers in Tye Felhaber here in Saginaw,” Drinkill concluded. “We want him to be the player that we know he can be and getting off to a good start this season will be important for him.”
ontariohockeyleague.com will feature one team each day in advance of the 2016-17 season which begins Wednesday September 21.
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