Prospect of the Week: December 17, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for December 9-15, 2013 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).

There comes a point in every NHLer’s rookie season where things start to slow down for him. The pace of the game steadies, reads are made quicker, and suddenly the player’s confidence is at a familiar level to him, which usually equals increased production.

Lightning fans are seeing the evolution of Tyler Johnson as an NHLer right before their eyes. Johnson made his debut last season and started this year with Tampa Bay, but only in the last few weeks has he started to look like the real Tyler Johnson – smart, savvy, speedy, and consistently on the scoresheet.

This past week Johnson, who is playing on the team’s top line in the absence of arguably the world’s top goal scorer Steven Stamkos (no pressure, rook), recorded four points in four games, including three in a shootout loss to Washington last Tuesday. The undrafted Spokane, Washington, native rose to third on the NHL rookie scoring table and thanks to his special teams prominence leads all first year forwards in ice time.

Western North America scouts are still banging their heads against a cold, cement arena wall somewhere for missing on this hidden gem that went undrafted twice.

Signed as a free agent by Steve Yzerman in March of 2011, Johnson has been a huge part of every team he’s played for, from WHL Spokane (Memorial Cup champ, WHL champ, WHL Playoff MVP, First Team All-Star, Most Sportsmanlike), to AHL Norfolk (Calder Cup champ, AHL All-Rookie Team), to AHL Syracuse (MVP, Scoring champ, First Team All-Star).

Johnson is starting to make his mark in Tampa Bay, and if he’s this “good at the NHL hockey” now, he’s going to have more awards and titles following his name in the near and distant future.

Honorable Mention: Jake Dotchin, D (Barrie, OHL), JT Brown, W (Tampa Bay, NHL).

2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners:

December 10: Ondrej Palat, W, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 3: Cedric Paquette, C, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 26: Tyler Johnson, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
November 19: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 13: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 4: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 29: Kristers Gudlevskis, G, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 24: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 16: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 9: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 1: Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, (Salavat Yulaev, KHL, Russia).
September 24: Adam Erne, W, Tampa Bay (NHL) and Quebec (QMJHL)