Tampa Bay Lightning Report Cards: Forwards

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#9 Tyler Johnson

My 2013/2014 Forecast: A solid 35-40 point season.

GP: 82 G: 24 A: 26 Pts: 50 +/-: 23 PIM: 26

Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being named last season’s AHL MVP, Tyler Johnson still managed to blow expectations out of the water this year. My own best case scenario for him, written pre-season, reads as follows: “50 points, Calder nomination, and a Lightning third line that can play 15 minutes per night.” And looking back, I think most of us would agree that Johnson’s season was indeed as good as any of us could have expected.

The turning point for Johnson came around the first of December when he and his AHL BFF, Ondrej Palat, were partnered with Martin St. Louis in the wake of Steven Stamkos‘s injury. Before then, Johnson was known for having multiple scoring chances per game and, for whatever reason (goal post, fanned shot, bad luck, highway robbery), failing to convert on them. Once he was on the top line, pucks started going in, and Johnson never looked back.

But Johnson’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. Sure, 50 points is great for a rookie. Sure, he set a Lightning franchise record with 24 goals in his rookie year. But in order to really appreciate how great Johnson’s season was, you have to realize he was also among Jon Cooper’s top defensive options, was a mainstay on the penalty kill, and finished the year with five short-handed goals, which tied him for the league lead.

Grade: A+

Looking Ahead: Johnson is likely going to be a two-way force for the Lightning for a long time. He’ll probably be the type of player that we, Lightning fans, will appreciate while he’ll be largely overlooked by the rest of the league. But that’s okay. The Lightning have a roster full of those players and, right now, it’s going alright.

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