📝 by Jared Shafran | AHL On The Beat
Ontario Reign captain T.J. Tynan has had quite the month.
When 2023 began, the reigning back-to-back AHL most valuable player was leading his team in scoring, as expected, but he hadn’t produced the eye-popping numbers Reign fans saw last season when he put up 98 points, the highest total for any skater in the last 15 years, and earned 84 assists, the third-most in the history of the league.
About six weeks ago on New Year’s Day, Tynan’s point total was at 28 through the Reign’s first 27 games. While many players would be happy averaging a point per game near the halfway point of the season, it was surprising to see his total outside the league’s top-25.
But over the course of the next 40 days, things have changed significantly.
Tynan spent the month of January racking up 25 points in 14 games on three goals and 22 assists, almost doubling his season-long scoring total. Tynan’s production earned him the first AHL Player of the Month award of his career, recording multiple points in eight of those games — including a pair of four-assist nights. He became the first AHL player to record 25 points in a month since December of 2016, and those scoring numbers helped Ontario in the standings as well, with the team finishing 8-5-1 in the first month of 2023.
“It’s awesome,” Tynan said the day following the league’s award announcement. “Obviously that means we’re scoring more goals so as a forward that’s big. It’s a great accomplishment and an honor, but I think that just means we’ve been playing a lot better lately. We’ve had ups and downs this year, so I think a lot of guys had some good months there which means our team is doing well and that’s the most important thing.”
One of those other players Tynan referred to was his linemate Lias Andersson, who scored many of the goals he helped set up last month. Andersson also finished January with huge numbers, netting a league-high 11 goals along with seven assists for 18 points during the team’s 14 contests.
The two highest-scoring players on the Reign’s roster have developed an impressive chemistry this season, setting an example for the rest of the forward group.
“I think that we’re both really competitive and we want to be the best players on the ice every night,” Tynan said. “It’s been clicking lately. Playing with each other more and more, I think you get to know each other’s tendencies. Lias is incredible so I’m just trying to get him the puck any way I can and get him in spaces where I know he can get that shot off or get him around the net where he’s extremely talented.”
Tynan said that they weren’t doing much differently during January, but they’re constantly focused on playing the best hockey they can at both ends of the ice, which will result in higher possession numbers and more offensive chances.
“For us I think it’s just playing the right way, helping our team win,” Tynan said. “When you play the right way you’re going to get the puck more and have more opportunities. I think this month we just clicked a little bit more, and I think we have room to grow as players and as a team so hopefully it just keeps getting better.”
Back on Jan. 11, Tynan was selected for the league’s All-Star Classic in Laval, Quebec, which was held this week. Tynan was also part of the 2020 event held in Ontario, as well as 2018 in Utica and 2016 in Syracuse.
“It’s a great honor,” Tynan said after hearing the news from his head coach, Marco Sturm. “It’s just a testament to my teammates and the guys around me. I get to play with a lot of talented guys every day in games and in practice.”
Tynan entered February as the No. 2 scorer in the league with 53 points, and added a goal and an assist against Tucson on Feb. 4 to head into the All-Star break with a total of seven goals and 47 assists. The goal, which added insurance late in the third period to an eventual 5-2 win for the Reign, helped him reach another impressive milestone: 500 career AHL points. Tynan was immediately recognized by the crowd on hand at Toyota Arena for this achievement.
“The crowd was amazing,” Reign assistant coach Chris Hajt said after the game. “That was definitely a special moment in the arena and in general I think everyone will remember that. Obviously, T.J. is a heck of a player and has had a great career and we’re lucky to have him.”
It was a special sendoff for Ontario’s captain, who immediately boarded a flight for Quebec to join the league’s other All-Stars in Laval. After participating in three events during the Skills Competition on Sunday, Tynan didn’t disappoint in the 3-on-3 All-Star Challenge on Monday.
Teaming up with the other All-Stars from his division, Tynan helped the Pacific win the championship game of the event for the first time. The attacker led all skaters in scoring, posting six points during round-robin play to help advance his team into the final six-minute game, where they earned a 1-0 victory to take home the trophy.
In front of national television audiences on NHL Network, TSN and RDS, Tynan posted a goal in the Pacific’s first contest against the North to force a shootout, added a goal and an assist to former Reign teammate Christian Wolanin (now with Abbotsford) in a 6-2 win over the Atlantic and racked up three points with a goal and two assists to Wolanin and Henderson’s Brayden Pachal in a 5-2 victory from the final contest with the Central’s All-Stars.
As Tynan returned to action this weekend, he had scored points in nine of his last 10 games, racking up three goals and 18 assists in those outings to keep Ontario in fifth place in the Pacific with 50 points.
Sitting right in the middle of a 10-team division, there’s plenty of room for movement both ways as the club begins their stretch run with 29 games remaining. The captain is looking forward to the heightened competition, something he’s very familiar with having gone on multiple deep Calder Cup Playoff runs during his career — including trips to the finals in 2019 with the Chicago Wolves and 2016 with the Lake Erie Monsters, where he won the title.
“Those series, the hockey and the importance of the games ramps up,” Tynan said. “Winning a series and celebrating with each other and ultimately getting to the finals, it’s different, and that’s what you play for. You play to win, and you want to be the team that wins the last game of the season.”
There’s a long way to go before those types of games are played, but if Tynan continues to put up the type of numbers he had last month, Ontario will have a shot to compete for a trophy this spring.