New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

New Lightning  forward Danick Martel gets some preseason ice time against the  Panthers  at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
New Lightning forward Danick Martel gets some preseason ice time against the Panthers at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published September 25 2018
Updated September 25 2018

TAMPA — Danick Martel didn't have much of an opportunity to ease his way into his time with the Lightning.

On Sunday, 10,164 Lightning fans flocked to Amalie Arena to watch Martel's debut practice, also known as Fan Fest.

As if there was not already enough pressure on him having joined the Lightning the previous night.

"Yeah, but I think it was the perfect time for me to come in because I had some fun," Martel said. "Instead of being stressed or trying to be the best I can for the d-zone or the PK like we did today. Yesterday, I just played some hockey and had some fun."

Martel needed the familiarity that hockey could provide in the middle of a 24-hour period in which little was familiar.

On Saturday, the Lightning claimed Martel off waivers from Philadelphia, forcing him to scramble to get to Tampa. Moving fast is not difficult for Martel, though. He has quickly shown the coaches and players that it comes quite easy, whether he is scurrying to get to Florida or speeding by defensemen.

It all started at 12:15 p.m. Saturday when Martel got the call, sitting in Allentown, Pa. The Lightning had claimed him off waivers. His flight to Tampa would leave at 3 p.m.

He grabbed some clothes, suits and essentials. Only what fit in his suitcase. That meant no TV or Xbox. Those stayed in his car, which is still parked in a garage in Pennsylvania.

Martel had to ask someone to bring him to the airport, the airport from which a plane would take him to a place he knew nothing about. The only time Martel, a native of Drummondville, Quebec, has been to Florida was when he traveled to Miami during the All-Star break two years ago.

He said the thought did not phase him, though.

"I think I was waiting for that moment, to get a chance in the NHL," Martel said. "So wherever I was going, I was ready for it mentally. It sure is not easy."

He looks as if he might be ready for the NHL from the standpoint of his play, too.

Martel played in 199 regular season games for AHL Lehigh Valley, scoring 68 goals. He scored at least 20 goals in all three seasons in which he played 50 or more games.

Martel also played in four games for the Flyers this past season.

Players who put up those types of numbers in their early 20s, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois said, usually end up being able to play at the NHL level.

It's why the Lightning wasted little time claiming Martel when the Flyers placed him on waivers.

"He kind of fits our DNA in the sense that he is really fast, he's skilled and he is tenacious," BriseBois said Saturday.

Then Sunday, Martel was as good as BriseBois' word. Look no further than when Martel sped past Victor Hedman to score a short-handed goal.

Yes, Norris-trophy-winning defenseman Victor Hedman.

"The big joke was that he had fresh legs," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Good for him. He definitely got some bragging rights for Team White yesterday."

The goal, which Martel scored against backup goaltender Louis Domingue, was one of Team White's many goals against Team Blue.

The goal Martel scored might have left the greatest impression, though, having scored the goal less than 15 hours after arriving in Tampa and joining a new team in even less time.

"He is a high energy player," forward Mitchell Stephens said. "Just even skating with him the last couple of days, he has a very good, high skill level. He is able to make plays under pressure, which is crucial."

If Martel can continue to make plays under pressure, he can likely make the Lightning roster while facing pressure, too. He is not a roster lock by any means, though. He has to pick up a new system and adapt to the Lightning in about one week worth of camp.

"I don't want to think too far," Martel said. "I just packed my things, and see what will happen next."