We all know the superstars in the league. The Crosbys, the Ovechkins, the Stamkoses, they were all number one overall draft picks. Hockey, more than any other sport, high draft picks are rarely a letdown. Late-round gems are relatively rare, and undrafted players who go on to make solid NHL production are the rarest.
Yet, the Lightning have two such players on their roster to counteract the #1 and #2 overall picks in Stamkos and Victor Hedman. The first, of course, is Martin St. Louis, who was passed over time and time again because of his lack of size. He has risen to become an All-Star.
The second is a complete unknown outside of the Bay: Teddy Purcell. Born Edward “Ted” Purcell, the 25 year-old followed the college route after going undrafted, much like St. Louis. He played the 2006-2007 season with the University of Maine before signing with the Los Angeles Kings in 2007.
Purcell spent most of the 07-08 season with the King’s AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, though he was called up for 10 NHL games throughout the year. Just think: a year earlier no one wanted him in the draft, then just 12 short months later, he’s playing in the NHL.
That year, he was named to the AHL All-Star Classic, becoming the first rookie to record a hat trick in the game’s history. He added the winning goal in the shootout on his way to winning the game’s MVP award. Purcell won the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s top rookie of 2007-2008.
Purcell split the 2008-2009 season between the Kings and the Monarchs, but he played 41 games for the Kings in 2009-2010 leading up to the trading deadline. On that day, he was sent to the Lightning with a third round pick in exchange for Jeff Halpern. Ever since, he has been a key role player and supplemental scorer.
In 63 games with the Bolts this season, Purcell has already registered career highs in goals (15) assists (25) and points (40). Those 40 points rank him third on the team behind only Stamkos and fellow undraftee St. Louis. His 15 goals also rank third on the club.
Where Purcell has made the most impact this season is getting the game started. 6 of his 15 goals have been the first goals of the game. He also plays up to the crowd at home, as 11 of his goals have come in St. Pete Times Forum.
Purcell has added solid secondary scoring this season. He has been consistent on the team that has been ever-changing with injuries, particularly with Vinny Lecavalier in and out of the lineup so much. He has really stepped up for this team, and it likely won’t go unnoticed when his contract negotiations come around this summer.
At only a $750,000 salary, Purcell is one of the best bargains on the team. A bargain that is due for a raise come July 1st. Purcell will become a restricted free agent at that time, one of four the Lightning will be looking to re-sign (the others are Lundin, Stamkos, and Smaby). The Lightning also have 8 pending unrestricted free agents.
With all that space and money to go around, expect Purcell’s performance to earn him a priority in discussions with Yzerman. Being a part of the Red Wings, he knows how important depth is when it comes to making a deep playoff run.
A big hole opened up for players to step up when Lecavalier went down earlier this year. The fact that Purcell has been one of the main players to help filly that role says a lot about his character. Despite encountering numerous roadblocks on the way to his dream, Teddy Purcell never gave up, and now he’s living his dream. You can never have too much of that kind of heart.