Defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote  is finally making his return to the NHL after a seven year absence after signing a 2-year, 2-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday. Cote has been an integral part of the Lightning organization for its AHL squads the last three year, most recently with Syracuse.
In September, we called Cote an "elite player for the Lightning organization " for his mentoring roles with prospects, high character, and all-around likability.
Simply put, there are players with all the skill in the world that kids try to emulate, trying trick shots and near-patented moves. Cote's the type of person and player that a dad will take his son by the shoulders, turn him in Cote's direction, and say "be like him." Even if the kid never makes the NHL, he's a player and person his family can be proud of.
On the ice, Cote is a no-frills responsible defensive defenseman. He's improved his skating over the past few years thanks to Lightning skating coach Barb Underhill. Earlier this year Cote thanked the Lightning for providing player-improvement resources such as Underhill (he also credited the Lightning with him falling in love with hockey again). Cote is a physical player who isn't shy about hitting and rarely takes himself out of position. He adequately moves the puck up the ice to his forwards and won't stay on the ice past his expected shift time. He's not Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermeyer, but he is a player coaches can trust on the third pair and PK to not be out of position or pinch in at inopportune times 5 on 5.
Off the ice, Cote is an organization-first player. He understands what the club as a whole is looking for, as well as coaches, and strives to help paint that big picture however he can. If that's helping a young prospect pass him on the depth chart, he will do that for the good of the big picture. If it's talking to the group or individuals to make a correction or to further team chemistry, he's first in line.
It's easy to understand why media, Syracuse management and ownership, and former teammates took to Twitter to congratulate Cote on his well-deserved promotion. He's a favorite for his play and persona, and he's finally bringing that to Tampa.