His first season with the Bolts, St. Louis played more games at the NHL level than he had in two seasons with Calgary. And, his numbers were dramatically different as well; he scored 18 goals (equal to his total points in the 1999-2000 season) and 22 assists in 76 games. However, the best was yet to come, and after resigning with Tampa in the Spring of 2002, St. Louis put together two of his best seasons averaging a point per game in 164 games. He also helped drive the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup championship by playing in 23 playoff games and scoring 24 points en route.
Martin St. Louis has continued to improve his performance since returning from the ’04 lockout, and has scored 189 goals and 330 assists in 490 games (that’s a 1.06 PPG average!) Now, we wait for what one would assume would be another high-flying year for our Bolts, and while we wait, we take a look at who this writer believes might be the Lightning’s next diamond in the rough – Tyler Johnson.
Elite Prospects lists Johnson as a “two-way forward with blazing speed, swift hands, and quick feet.” And, he sure has put his talent on display playing in the Western Hockey League where he’s averaged 1.06 points per game in four seasons. Johnson’s has been both an individual and team winner, leading the Northern Pacific Hockey League in goals (56), assists (64), and points (120) at the age of 15 in 2006-2007, and collecting the Memorial Cup and WHL Playoffs MVP in 2008.
Apart from sharing similar offensive skills and tenacity, Tyler Johnson and Martin St. Louis have another more obvious common trait – their physical size. Though size doesn’t dictate ability, it is interesting to note that their size seems to fuel their competitive nature. Lightning director of amateur scouting, Al Murray, told Mark Pukalo, “He’s not big or physical, but he’s between the man and the puck all the time. He will go in and win battles for loose pucks, his speed allows him to defend well and he gets in lanes, block shots and he has really good vision.”
We can only hope that Tyler Johnson brings that same grit to Tampa real soon, and that he can make the offensive contributions all teams count on from their young prospects. Johnson’s entry level contract has a cap hit of over $750,000 per year, and that just goes to show you what Lightning GM Steve Yzerman thinks of the young center and his capabilities.
Undoubtedly, Yzerman will give Johnson time to build strength in the AHL, and we can only hope that he makes leaps and bounds playing within the Lightning organization the same way St. Louis did way back when. I for one believe we just may have uncovered a gem in Johnson, and hopefully, we’ll be witness to another star rising in Tampa Bay.
Follow on Twitter @thefrozenpond