January 18, 2022

The Pipeline: A conversation with Tyler Brennan

Tyler Brennan of the Prince George Cougars knows the expectations are heavy.

The NHL Central Scouting has as Brennan as the No. 1-ranked North American Goaltender for the 2022 NHL Draft, and he was the only goalie slotted within the top 100 of FCHockey’s Winter ranking for the 2022 draft. 

His record, just 7-11-1 in 19 games, might not back that up, though.

But Brennan has been solid for the Cougars this season, even though they are a young team on a rebuild. He has also demonstrated some leadership qualities that have helped this team during the first part of the season.

“We have a really young team up in Prince George, so there’s a lot of learning to be had here,” Brennan told Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show. “Me as an 18-year-old trying to help the younger guys adapt to the league and adapt to how fast the play is here coming from lower levels. I think that we had high expectations for the year, but obviously myself and the whole team want to be better than what we showed so far and I think from here on out we’re gonna be a lot better.”

Brennan doesn’t let the draft talk distract him during the season, though.

He’s parked that noise. 

“Obviously it is a little bit of a confidence boost when you’re scrolling through Twitter and you see something about yourself (regarding draft), but I don’t try to think about it a whole lot, I just try to play and help the team win.”

Guy Flaming: You mentioned this is your third year now, that includes the abbreviated season in the spring. How have you felt about your development over the past three seasons? How have you felt about your own personal evolution as a goalie?

Tyler Brennan: Yeah, I think coming into the league as a 16-year-old, especially as a goalie is tough, but Gauthier was my goalie partner and I think he showed me the ropes and what to do and not to do really well and I thank him for that a lot. I let him know about it all the time. I have improved a lot. Obviously coming in as a sixteen year old, I was a little nervous for my first year, my first start. But I think I did really well my 16-year-old and then you just keep improving every day at practice. When you get the chance to be in net for a game you take the most of the opportunity and get better.

Guy Flaming: What’s that relationship like between a goaltender, from your perspective, you’re the young guy, you want to get the starts, but so does the veteran and he’s kinda been there before. You’re both competing for ice time, yet you’re on the same team and you both want success for the team, but you wanna be in the net. How do you balance that?

Tyler Brennan: We both want to be in the net, but we both know that only one can be each game, so I think we both have the mindset going into each practice that we gotta compete against each other from each end of the ice to try and earn those games. You don’t have one of those hate relationships, we kinda feed off of each other and the last two and a half years we were both battling against each other in practice. We’d have little mini competitions that only goalies can have. You know only one goalie is gonna get the net so you’re gonna work as hard as you can in practice to try and get that start and when you get the start, you make the most of the game to try and get the next start. I think it was a good competitive nature.

Guy Flaming: Winnipeg is a great town. Who got you into hockey as a youngster?

Tyler Brennan: Well obviously my parents, they kinda raised me into it, but a big thing would be my brother. My brother’s two years older than me and he played hockey before I did and obviously brotherly love, you wanna be better than the other guy, so I kinda got into hockey obviously trying my best my whole entire life to be like him and have more success. So a big shout out to my brother for kinda pushing me growing up to be where I am today.

Guy Flaming: So why the attraction of being a netminder, how did you get interested in playing between the pipes?

Tyler Brennan: It was back when your team would rotate goalies. I was having fun being a player, but gave goalie a try and was goalie for a game and I loved it and thought it was fun. I enjoyed having the pressure of you’re the last guy before the puck goes in the net, so I kinda enjoyed that and the next year after that I was a goalie full time and it just kinda stuck.

Guy Flaming: These days all goaltenders are butterfly goalies. How do you differentiate yourself, how do you describe yourself as a goaltender? What are your strengths?

Tyler Brennan: Obviously we just talked about how I’m a pretty big guy, but I’m still able to move around. I think my strengths are my size along with my ability to move and my positioning is a big one too. I’m a big guy so just get in the right position and get in the way of the puck.

Guy Flaming: What about goaltenders you look up to, are there goalies that you like to follow at the NHL level?

Tyler Brennan: Yeah, when my Mike Smith was back with the Coyotes I followed him a lot. I’ve just been kinda following him his whole career. I’ve got in touch with him a few times. He’s a really good guy and he’s kinda been taking me under his wing a little bit. It’s pretty cool and I appreciate that from him.

Guy Flaming: That’s awesome. He loves to play the puck. Are you a puckhandler too?

Tyler Brennan: Yeah, I’ve been working on my puckhandling a lot lately. He talked to me about it a little bit as well and some tips on what to do and not to do. I’ve been trying to play the puck a lot more lately.

Guy Flaming: How much time do you spend thinking about the draft? 

Tyler Brennan: Like a lot of the guys, I don’t try and think about it too much. I think it could take your mind in the wrong direction if you think about it a little too much. Obviously it is a little bit of a confidence boost when you’re scrolling through Twitter and you see something about yourself. I don’t try to think about it a whole lot, I just try to play and help the team win.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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