Tyler Sandhu has had quite the nomadic life in the Western Hockey League.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward was drafted by Portland, and he made stops in Everett and Red Deer before landing on the Tri-City Americans’ doorstep at the trade deadline during the 2014-15 season.
Now in the midst of his second full season with the Americans, Sandhu has settled in. He wears the captain’s letter and is one of the more productive players in the WHL.
“Sandy is a huge part of our team on the ice and what he brings to the game and the dressing room with his leadership,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “He has the respect of his teammates, coaching staff, really anyone who interacts with him. He’s a quality person. He wants to win. He wants a good season as an overage (player), and he’s doing a good job leading by example.”
A native of Richmond, British Columbia, Sandhu is off to a good start.
He is tied for fourth in the WHL with 25 assists, and he is tied for 18th in the league in scoring with 30 points, along with teammates Juuso Välimäki and Morgan Geekie. They are second in team scoring behind Michael Rasmussen (33 points), who has a league-high 20 goals.
“It has been a good start,” Sandhu said. “I have played with good players in Michael (Rasmussen) and Vlad (Vladislav Lukin). I’ve played with some great players, but Michael does a lot of things off the ice that no one sees. He puts in a lot of work to be as good as he is.”
Playing with Tri-City has elevated Sandhu’s game. Before he arrived in the Tri-Cities, he had a career-high 33 points in Everett during his 2012-13 rookie season.
Last season, he had 48 points in 67 games, and he is well on his way to shattering that mark during his final season.
“Coming here, my confidence has helped develop me into the player and person I am today,” he said.
Sandhu was named team captain at the start of the season, a responsibility he cherishes.
“After a roller coaster of a career, to have them believe in me is a big honor to me and my family,” he said.
Getting his feet wet
The Portland Winterhawks drafted Sandhu in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2011 WHL bantam draft after he scored 46 goals with 45 assists in 40 games for the Seafair Bantams A1-T1.
“I got to have good conversations with (then-scout) Scott Blakeney,” Sandhu said. “They were good people. I went to visit when Portland was in the Western Conference finals with Tri-City (2012). They were good to me.”
But Sandhu’s relationship with the Winterhawks lasted just a year. Not long after the Western Conference finals, Portland traded Sandhu and three other young players to the Everett Silvertips for the rights to defenseman Seth Jones, whom they signed later that day.
“They gave me a call and told me about it,” Sandhu said. “They were good about it. I knew a lot about Seth Jones before that happened. He’s a great player.”
The trade to Everett wasn’t all that bad. It was closer to his family, so they were able to attend a lot of his home games.
“I met a great group of guys and my billets,” Sandhu said of his time with the Silvertips. “I made a lot of great memories there.”
After two years with Everett, he was traded to Red Deer.
“It was nice to have a change of scenery and play for a Canadian team in the league,” he said. “I played under Brent Sutter. The trade was hard on my parents (Gurm and Kelly). They were used to coming and watching almost every home game.”
After playing nine games with Everett and 28 with Red Deer during the 2014-15 season, Sandhu found himself heading back to the U.S. — and to Tri-City.
“When it first happened, I was shocked,” Sandhu said. “The drive from Red Deer and the first couple of days here were a blur. Ever since I have been here, everyone has been welcoming. Tri-City has become a big part of my life.”
Williamson, who has coached for more than 20 years in the WHL, said trades can be hard on players.
“That part of the game is tough,” Williamson said. “When they find out they are going somewhere, quite often the first thought is that someone doesn’t want you. It was quite the opposite. We were extremely excited about the possibility of getting him. I don’t think it took long for Sandy to feel at home here. He fit in with the guys right away. It seemed he’d been here for a long time within a week or two. It feels like home for him. I think it’s important for players to feel comfortable in order to have success.”
Seems to be working.