The London Knights first found Tyler Parsons when they weren’t even looking for him.
They were scouting someone else in 2014 and he stood out.
At that time, Parsons was less than five years removed from roller hockey. There are seven-year-olds racing around rinks in London who had more on-ice experience than the young man from Chesterfield, Michigan.
That didn’t matter. Parsons had that something special that certain people possess. Now, that quality has led him to the wildest of rides through championships at the highest levels junior hockey can bring.
On Sunday, the Knights’ number one goalie reached yet another pinnacle in his career.
He signed his first National Hockey League contract with the Calgary Flames.
“It is an honour. It’s something to be really proud of and it gives you something now to work toward.”
Calgary selected Parsons in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. On that day in June, Parsons was less than a month removed from a giant celebration in Red Deer where he helped London to capture the Memorial Cup with a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory in the final against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The draft celebration was smaller, but no less significant.
As a youngster Parsons was always a great athlete, but he didn’t put on his first pair of skates in a real hockey game until he had passed his eleventh birthday.
The learning curve was steep, but sheer competitiveness has propelled Parsons through it.
He also owns hips that seem to live on hinges, allowing him to drop into the butterfly of even post-to-post splits with ease, only to pop back up and be ready to flash a glove or a blocker at a puck fired his way.
Having never really been on the U.S. National team radar, Parsons’ faced long odds when it came time to select the World Junior team in 2015 and he was left off as an 18-year-old.
This past December he not only made the team, he earned the number one job and then did his part through a shootout against Russia in the semi-finals and another one the next night against Canada in front of what Parsons says was, “the loudest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
After nine shooters, the United States found themselves leading by a goal. One more save from Parsons and his team would be on top of the world.
Nicolas Roy brought the puck in across the blue line and Parsons made a decision.
“Fake poke check.” He still smiles when he says it. “I just wanted to try to throw him off and I guess it worked. I couldn’t see where the puck was but I listened for the crowd and it was quiet and I knew it hadn’t gone in. I just jumped up and started celebrating. A number of my family members have served in the military and it was something I considered as well. That ended up being my small way of honouring my country.”
A Memorial Cup, the NHL Draft, a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship and now a professional contract with Calgary.
All in under a year.
Tyler Parsons had to wait awhile to be discovered, but he is making sure no one loses sight of him from this point on.