UTICA, N.Y. — Back in October, Perrysburg native Tanner Dickinson was selected in the fourth round of the NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues.
He was scheduled to play this year in the Ontario Hockey League, but his season was canceled. But the Blues had a plan for Dickinson and in the past week, he’s taking his game to a completely new level.
Dickinson is just 19 years old. He’s been playing at an elite level for years.
He’s represented the United States in international competition. He’s used to playing tough competition, but when the Blues told Dickinson he’d be spending the rest of the season in the American Hockey League, it was a brand new challenge.
"My focus was on just the OHL starting and my focus was on that," said Dickinson. "But the opportunity to get to play up here is great for me and I'm happy to be here. I've never wanted to be a pro more than now. Everything that is available to you here is awesome. It's definitely a pro setup and it's a great experience for me to be able to practice with some of these guys that might have NHL careers."
"We like to do it at the end of the year for our players just to show them what the AHL is all about," said Tim Taylor, Blues director of player development. "The biggest jump, we feel, is not from the AHL to the NHL, lots of guys do that. It's the jump from junior hockey, college hockey to that pro-level that kids have a real hard time with."
Dickinson never stopped working out. He stayed ready while he couldn’t play games. But to get to the AHL and be playing against guys much older is an awesome opportunity.
"Well, obviously I was training still, getting ready for the season to start," said Dickinson. "Working out with Dan Jones and still skating and stuff. I got a call from Tim Taylor and he told me I got a couple days to get ready and I'm going to head out here to Utica. I packed my stuff, had to get a COVID test and headed over here."
I haven't played in over a year so I was pretty nervous my first game, but a couple shifts in I realized there's no reason I don't belong here," added Dickinson. "I felt comfortable. It feels good to play another game."
"It's good evaluation for us to see a young kid go in there," said Taylor. "But at the same time, it's more of an eye-opening experience for them to understand where they're at and where they need to get to to get to the next level."
Next year, Dickinson will return to The Soo of the OHL. It will be a huge year for him to prove he’s ready for pro hockey, but the opportunity he’s been given now will certainly set him up for the rest of his career.