Lightning Organization Confident in Rookie Pro Paquette

By Jeremy Houghtaling

When Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler first made the decision to put Cedric Paquette in the lineup, he relied on what he had heard from scouts.

The Tampa Bay Lightning organization, which drafted Paquette in the fourth round in 2012, knew what they could expect from the gritty 6-1 forward fresh out of junior hockey, and knew he would able to jump right into the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Finals.

"They were confident that he would be able to handle it,” Zettler said. “And he did."

Paquette played to his strengths three postseason contests - he played physical, went to the front of the net, and when he got the opportunity, created scoring chances. Although the Quebec native has bounced around on a couple different lines, he is taking that same work ethic into his first full professional season.

"I'm a two-way player, I can play on the second line, the third line, or the fourth line," Paquette said. "I can play physical and put some pucks in the net."

In his first eight games this season, Paquette has shown his scoring touch. The 20-year-old has three goals -- two shorthanded -- as well as a game-winner in a shootout.

"Just try to be good defensively and the chances come," Paquette said of his shorthanded markers. He guessed he had two goals on the penalty kill over the past two seasons in juniors (he actually had one, scored in the playoffs last year for Blaineville-Boisbriand).

"He reads the play really well. He's able to see things happen, that's why he's got the shorthanded chances," Zettler said. "He's got a good stick."

Over two years with the Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Paquette totaled 160 points and 246 penalty minutes in 152 games. Although he hasn’t kept up the pace of a point per game like he did in junior, Paquette has seen plenty of positives to the start of this season.

"I think I'm just getting better every day, working hard in practice and every game," he said.

Overall, Zettler is pleased with the rookie’s work this season, especially when he plays to his strengths.

"As of late, he's been very good," Zettler said. "His minutes have gone up a little bit because we've used him more on the penalty kill and late in the game or period situations. He's responded really well."