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Myers reflects on rookie season

Tyler Myers never really had time to relax during the season. His rapid jump from junior hockey to the NHL and all the games, travel and learning that came along with it -- didn't allow for many moments of reflection.

That finally changed during the past couple of months. The Buffalo Sabres' defenseman has spent much of his offseason back home in Kelowna, British Columbia, chatting with family and catching up with friends. It's helped him realize his first professional season really was impressive.

"It was a long season," Myers said by phone. "I had a lot of fun with it. It was definitely an adjustment. I think when the season ended I took a little time to actually start to realize what actually just happened, and it was definitely a year I won't forget."

Although his skates have been packed away since the end of April, there's still one day of his rookie season remaining. Myers will join goaltender Ryan Miller in Las Vegas this week for Wednesday's NHL Awards Show. They have a chance to give the Sabres their second-largest hardware haul in team history.

Myers is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Miller is up for three awards: the Vezina Trophy, given to the best goalie; the Messier Leadership Award, given to the player who exemplifies leadership on and off the ice; and the NHL Foundation Award, given to the player who applies the core values of hockey -- commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community.

If they combine to win all four awards, they will fall just one short of the five-trophy season of 1997. Dominik Hasek won the Vezina, Hart and Pearson trophies (the Most Valuable Player as voted by media and players, respectively), Michael Peca earned the Selke as top defensive forward and Ted Nolan won the Jack Adams as best coach.

Myers is competing against Colorado forward Matt Duchene and Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard for the Calder. He said it's an honor to merely be nominated, but winning would put him on an impressive list. Recent winners include Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, some of the sport's royalty. Joining them would be an even bigger honor.

"It would mean a whole lot," Myers said. "Just to be nominated, it's a great honor. Obviously, it'd be really great to win it, but at the same time I'm not too worried about the outcome. I'm happy to be there, and I'm just going to enjoy the experience."

Myers certainly has the numbers to win. The 20-year-old led all rookies with 37 assists and was third with 48 points. He skated 23:44 per game -- two minutes more than any other first-year player -- and his plus-13 rating ranked second.

Myers would be bucking a trend should he earn the award. Only one blue-liner has won the Calder in the last 11 seasons, St. Louis' Barret Jackman in 2003. There have been only two in the last 19 seasons, with the New York Islanders' Bryan Berard winning in 1997.

"As far as not as many defensemen winning, I couldn't really tell you why," Myers said. "This year I tried to have the best year I could, and it's pretty cool to be put in a position that I'm in with the other two guys, able to go to Vegas for my first time."

Miller's competition for the Vezina is Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. Miller went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, while his main competitor, Bryzgalov, was 42-20-6 with 2.29 and .920.

The Messier winner is selected by Mark Messier, and the legendary Edmonton, Vancouver and Rangers captain has trimmed the final three to Miller, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Phoenix's Shane Doan.

Los Angeles' Dustin Brown and Washington's Mike Green join Miller in vying for the Foundation Award. Crosby, Ovechkin and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin are the three finalists for the Hart Trophy.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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