Prospect of the Week (12.5.11)

This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques, but we’re banking on a future Oscars-type awards show for it.

Quite simply, we wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospect’s achievement on the ice.

This week’s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to … Tyler Johnson, Center, Norfolk Admirals (AHL – USA)

Although undrafted, all Tyler Johnson did during his junior career was score. And play defense. And win faceoffs. And anything else his coaches asked of him. He just didn’t grow as much as his teammates, which didn’t do him any favors as he was undersized to begin with.

The Lightning didn’t care about his size when they signed him to an entry level contract as a free agent last March 7. And to reward them all Johnson did was continue to score. He led the Western Hockey League in goals with 53 in 71 games and came within a point of leading the league points, too. The Spokane Chief had 115 points last season, one behind Medicine Hat’s Linden Vey. Johnson was named a First Team All-Star at the end of the year and was presented with the league’s award for its most sportsmanlike player.

The 5’9” former WHL playoff MVP made his pro debut for the Norfolk Admirals this year and quickly made an impact on an all-rookie line with Carter Ashton and Cory Conacher. As time has progressed in the AHL season, he has had different linemates, but continues to make an impact.

This past week had had four points in three games, including two goals and a First Star award in a 2-1 comeback over Adirondack on Saturday night. Down 1-0 in the third period Johnson scored his seventh goal in 23 games to tie the game at one. Then with the clock ticking through the final minute of regulation Johnson knocked a rebound over former Philadelphia Flyers playoff hero Michael Leighton to win the game for the Admirals.

With an assist in each of his other two games last week, Johnson, a former teammate in Spokane of Norfolk goaltender Dustin Tokarski, is currently on a three-game point streak.

Someday he could be a two-way center at the NHL level who is capable of playing on the power play, penalty kill, and can put up points. He has the intangibles coaches desire, but although the Lightning are willing to overlook him being “vertically challenged,” Johnson must add weight to his 170-pound frame to successfully make it at the highest level.

Previous BP Prospects of the Week:

Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - November 28, 2011
Nikita Kucherov, Team Russia/CSKA Jr. (MHL) - November 21, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - November 14, 2011
Dustin Tokarski, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - November 6, 2011
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - October 30, 2011
Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac Bobcats - October 23, 2011
Radko Gudas, Norfolk Admirals - October 16, 2011
Carter Ashton, Norfolk Admirals - October 9, 2011
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning - October 2, 2011
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning - September 25, 2011