Paisley thriving for hometown Pistons
When the Beasejour Blades announced they were going to move to Steinbach, Ty Paisley was only five-years-old. Now 18, Paisley is having a breakout season for his hometown Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) team.
Despite now starring for the Pistons, Paisley admits he doesn’t remember much about them coming to Steinbach. He would play his minor hockey in the city until moving to the AA Eastman Blizzard, then began playing at the Rink Hockey Academy beginning in 2018/2019 for his second year in the bantam age group.
While most of his teammates need to travel across the province, or even the country for their Christmas break, Paisley can just stay right at home. The Pistons played their final game before the break Dec. 17.
“I have a bunch of guys on my team who tell me how lucky I am to play for my hometown,” Paisley said, laughing.
“It’s pretty awesome.”
Paisley has taken a huge leap this season. During the 2021/2022 season, he scored 30 points in 53 games. Now the forward is scoring well over a point-per-game for the Pistons.
Steinbach’s head coach and general manager Paul Dyck credited Paisley’s leap to his experience in the 2022 MJHL playoffs, where the team lost in game seven of the championship. Paisley had 10 points in 18 games during those playoffs, but saw his role expand.
“To be able to get three rounds in and play in a game seven in the finals, it’s difficult to quantify how valuable that is,” Dyck said, noting Paisley also did solid work in the off-season to solidify that experience.
“I would almost suggest a playoff run like that is almost as valuable as adding half a season to the one you’ve already played. There’s so much growth and learning that takes place.”
In Paisley’s final season of U18 at the Rink Hockey Academy, he was only able to play four games, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously I’m faster, bigger, stronger this year, but I’m playing with a lot more confidence on the ice,” Paisley said.
“Playoffs (showed me) a whole other level of fast and physicality, especially playing in a league with a lot of older guys, and me being only 17. It was definitely a cool experience, and definitely helped me get ready for this year.”
Paisley wasn’t in the lineup for Steinbach’s final game against Portage. Instead, he was in Cornwall Ont. after making Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. Paisley was the only player from the MJHL selected to the final roster.
“When you get to a camp like that, where there’s only 30 guys, all 30 are the best players in the west,” Paisley said.
“It was hard, but it was a great experience.”
Paisley was auto-selected by Steinbach in the 2019 MJHL draft. Teams in the league are able to select up to two local players every year, and Paisley was an easy choice for head coach and general manager Paul Dyck.
While some players might have been disappointed, wanting a full billet and travel experience, Paisley said he was excited to get a chance to play for the Pistons. The job Dyck did at both advancing players and finding success on the ice didn’t hurt either.
“I was super excited to be protected by Steinbach,” Paisley recalled.
“It’s kind of where I wanted to go.”
Dyck added that Paisley has a “great feel” for hockey. Those skills have been put on display throughout the season, with Paisley’s on-ice instincts and stick-handling leading to great scoring chances.
“Ty has a great skill-set, a great understanding of the game, a high hockey IQ, and the skills to match that,” Dyck said.
“The other thing is he wants to be a hockey player, and that can’t be understated.”
Those hockey smarts were put on full display early in the MJHL season, as after Dawson Milliken was injured, Dyck put together a first line of Paisley, Travis Hensrud and Davis Fry. The line proceeded to completely dominate the entire league, at one point all three players were in the top four of scoring in the MJHL.
“All three of us really clicked, but I wasn’t totally thinking it to go that well,” Paisly said.
“It went really well and I’m obviously happy it happened.”
With the return of Milliken, the offense has been a bit more balanced out, with Paisley playing alongside Hensrud and Neo Kiemeney.
“I think we’ve got four really good lines,” Paisley said.
“Everyone’s producing well as of late. We’ve got a little bit more balance in our lineup, and we’re going to be really good in the second half of the season.”
Paisley already knows where he’ll be suiting up after leaving Steinbach, as he has committed to the University of St Thomas in the NCAA.
“It’s an up-and-coming program, sounds like they’re building a brand new rink soon, and I’m really excited to be a part of that,” he said.
“The coaching staff was really a big one for me.”
While Paisley isn’t sure if he’ll start his time at St Thomas in 2023 or 2024, he’ll eventually have a friendly face next to him, as Pistons rookie Nicholas Mikan announced he had committed to the Minnesota university.
Dyck said the sky is the limit for Paisley, predicting the forward could turn pro at the end of his collegiate career.
“He’s got that rangy build, that’s what a lot of teams are looking for,” Dyck said.
“I think he hasn’t filled out completely yet either, he’s still a young guy. Where he is today physically is going to look a lot different when he’s 21-years-old.”
Dyck hopes that Paisley will also inspire the next generation of Steinbach hockey players.
“For the younger kids in our community, it gives them a template for what can be,” Dyck said.
“It’s there for the local guys too. If they want to play junior hockey, if they want to be a Piston, there’s definitely a possibility in the future. I just think it’s win/win.”