Burrell hockey star Stewart headed to Alaska for next step in pro dream

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Thursday, April 2, 2020 | 5:31 PM


Tyler Stewart is headed back to the world of junior hockey and continuing his path toward a professional career.

That path is leading to the other side of the country.

The Burrell senior signed a North American Hockey League tender agreement Wednesday with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in Alaska.

Though it’s a long way from home, Stewart is looking forward to the challenge in the NAHL’s Midwest Division.

“I had to think about how far away it is and what is best for me, and also how they develop their players whenever they’re ready for college, how many Division I commits they have,” Stewart said.

Stewart is a veteran of the NAHL. He played for the Johnstown Tomahawks in the NAHL’s Eastern Division and Odessa Jackalopes in the Southern Division during the 2019-20 season.

“Everybody is the same speed,” he said of the NAHL. “Everybody can make a pass without looking. Everybody can shoot from wherever on the ice. Everybody is smarter with the puck. Everybody knows how to protect the puck when they have it. It definitely makes the game more challenging.”

Stewart made a surprise return to the Burrell varsity team midway through the PIHL season this winter. The PIHL scoring champion during his sophomore and junior seasons, he suffered an injury while playing for Odessa and was released.

He played briefly with the Hampton Roads Whalers of the USPHL in Virginia and then returned home to play for the Esmark Stars AAA amateur team and also with Burrell.

No matter the level, Stewart has shown his ability to score. He had 34 goals and 53 points as a sophomore and 44 goals and 67 points as a junior at Burrell. He had 30 goals and 10 assists in seven games for the Bucs this season.

He scored 24 goals and had 29 assists with Esmark this season, helping lead the AAA 18U Stars to the Mid-American District Championship and a trip to the 2020 USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships. He had a league-leading 19 points in five Dixon Cup playoff games.

“Tyler is determined to make the next step, and there is simply no denying his world-class skills in the offensive zone,” Esmark 18U coach Dave Kosick said. “His performance at the NAPHL Playoffs and at the Mid-American District Championships created tremendous interest in him, and due to that and his overall skill set, we fielded a lot of calls from junior teams across the nation who all said they were overwhelmingly impressed by what he does in the offensive zone.”

Now, he will try and continue his scoring success with Fairbanks and possibly beyond.

“Every kid wants to play in the NHL,” he said. “If that weren’t the case, I’d say try and use my ability to play hockey to get a good education after high school.”

The question remains, however, when he will be able to get back on the ice.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, sports around the world have been shut down.

He is hoping to take part in training camps in July and August in advance of the 2020-21 season.

Until then, he’s doing what he can to stay in playing shape.

“I can’t go to the gym or get on the ice, so I’ve just been shooting pucks and lifting weights in the garage,” he said.

“I’ve been keeping in contact with my trainer; he’s telling me the workouts I should be doing. I’ll try and get back on the ice as soon as possible.”

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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