Undrafted and undersized, Tyler Johnson has been huge for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Johnson, called up from AHL Syracuse just two weeks ago, had two goals and two assists last week for the Lightning to earn the Bolt Prospect of the Week award. The rookie has six points in seven NHL games while exhibiting impressive speed and heady two-way play. He has become the Lightning’s top faceoff man, sporting a 63.6% winning percentage. He has been an ample replacement for Vincent Lecavalier in that area as the captain was leading the team with a 54.8% faceoff winning percentage at the time he broke his foot.
A Spokane, Washington, native, Johnson began his week coming off a one-goal and one-assist game against Carolina. He had assists against Philadelphia and Toronto, respectively, before scoring twice in the third period against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon.
Johnson took key faceoffs in both the defensive and offensive zones in the last few games– a sign of trust from the coaching staffs in the games’ closing minutes.
The next step for Johnson is to get on the penalty kill, which has been a calling card of his at every level. With former Syracuse coach Jon Cooper taking over the Lightning bench, look for that to happen soon. Johnson is one of the most “trustable” players to come through the Lightning system in years.
The Lightning signed Johnson as a free agent out of WHL Spokane on March 7, 2010, when he was on his way to a 53-goal, 115-point season for the Chiefs. As a rookie last year for the Norfolk Admirals, he was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team after scoring 31 times in 75 games. He added 37 assists for 68 points, which was second among rookies only to the previously mentioned Conacher.
This year, Johnson had 32 goals and 58 points in 59 games for the Crunch before his recall.
Johnson, ranked No. 3 among Bolt prospects, projects as a second line center at the NHL level because of his speed and high hockey I.Q. It is crucial for him to add weight to his slight frame, but even if he’s never able to get heavier than 185 pounds, it may not matter to the 5’9″ center – he’s that good at the hockey.