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Cuma wants to be the best at everything

67's blueliner's fierce competitive drive has attention of 28 NHL teams

Monday, 06.16.2008 / 10:53 AM ET / Features
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Cuma wants to be the best at everything

Defenceman Tyler Cuma was a busy man at the 2008 NHL scouting combine. Over a four-day period, Cuma met with an event-high 28 teams. So someone must like him, right?
What makes a professional athlete successful is his level of competitiveness, but it's not always the on-ice competitiveness that matters.

Hey, who doesn't want to be No. 1?

Ottawa 67s defenceman Tyler Cuma didn't lead the Ontario Hockey League in scoring or any other major category, and he isn't the No. 1-ranked player for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Cuma, rated No. 19 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, did lead one category at last month's scouting combine, when 107 of the top draft-eligible players met in Toronto – interviews.

"I actually had 28," Cuma told "I didn't meet with Colorado and Dallas. It's good. It's good to let every team know a little about myself."

What they learned in the 20-minute interviews can be paired with what they learned by watching Cuma perform with the 67s. He had 28 assists and 32 points in 59 games for Ottawa – second among 67s defencemen – and was the only 67's blueliner to finish with a positive plus/minus rating (plus-4). He also had two assists at the 2008 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game, and had four points in seven games for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championship.

Cuma is a heady player, which he displayed by winning the 67's' Top Scholastic Player award for the first semester of the 2007-08 season.

"Tyler is a very strong skater and will be an exceptional NHL player," said Ottawa's Hall of Fame coach Brian Kilrea. "He is one of the most dedicated players that I have ever coached. He started training immediately after our season ended last year to get ready for this season. He is very solid at both ends of the rink, including having to defend against the opposition's top players every game."

Tyler Cuma
Position: Defenceman
Birthplace: Toronto, ON
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 180

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Being the first player his coach turned to with the game's most important task worked perfectly with Cuma's personality.

"I think I've always had that 'try to be the first in everything that I do' (attitude)," Cuma said. "If it's hockey, school, anything else that I try to do. I'm very competitive; I don't like to come in second and I don't like to lose. I think I bring that to the rink; in practice, games, all the time I'm always trying to be the best I can possibly be – working on little things, whether it's skating, shooting, puck handling, anything like that.

"Having good coaches and people surrounding you also giving you that extra push definitely gives you that extra motivation. Having that mentality definitely helps you with the game."

Cuma's game certainly isn't struggling now.

"Tyler is an offensive defenceman, really adept at knowing when to pass the puck out of the zone or to put the wheels on and carry the puck out of the zone," said NHL Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire. "He helps the Ottawa 67's power play from the point and is really reliable. I find him to be equally adept at the defensive game as well as the offensive game, yet I find him to be more closely aligned with an offensive defenceman-type player."

Like most offensive-minded teenage defencemen, Cuma knows he needs to improve his defensive-zone play. At 6-foot-2 but just 180 pounds, he will have to bulk up and get stronger.

Cuma also could stand to tone down his desire to be No. 1 just a bit.

"My weakness is sometimes I try to do a little too much for my team," said Cuma. "My competitive nature ... I try to win every game possible."

Contact Adam Kimelman at

Author: Adam Kimelman | Staff Writer




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02