Brayden Point thrilled for spot on roster, Thursday debut
Lightning forward Brayden Point got the news in a phone call from Steve Yzerman, who told the 20-year-old he'll be sticking around for a bit.
Point said Wednesday it hadn't yet sunk in that he made Tampa Bay's final roster, and is expected to make his NHL debut Thursday night in the season opener against the Red Wings. Point said his parents, Grant and Janice, and younger brother Kade, 13, will be flying into town for it.
"I'm so excited," he said. "It's pretty cool."
Point, one of the club's top prospects, is entering just his first full pro season, and was eligible to be sent to AHL Syracuse. But Point forced his way onto this team with his impressive preseason, when he racked up three goals, showing a blend of speed, skill and smarts that was beyond his years.
"We're not handing out roster spots for free," coach Jon Cooper said. "The guys earn them...He most definitely earned one. He’s done everything we’ve asked him. His work ethic’s impeccable. He’s got hockey sense."
Point, who was filling in on the second line while Nikita Kucherov was in his contract holdout, slotted in on the third line for Wednesday's practice with Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov. Point is also on one of the power play units.
Point will certainly get his chance, and it's up to him, especially while Ryan Callahan (hip) is still out, to prove he can stick.
"Obviously I've got to play (well)," he said. "I've got to work that much harder."
NUTS AND BOLTS: D Slater Koekkoek, a former first-round pick, has already went through his NHL debut, and played 10 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. But Koekkoek said making his first opening night roster is still special. "I'm so thankful to be here. I've pictured this since friggin' June 22, 2012. So it's a big thing.".. Callahan continues to practice in a non-contact jersey, but his return from June hip surgery appears to be accelerated. Cooper said the hope is for Callahan to be close to returning by the end of the team's first six-game road trip at the end of the month, early November. The lines for Wednesday, and likely Thursday's opener, were Ondrej Palat-Steven Stamkos-Jonathan Drouin/Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov/Vladislav Namestnikov-Valtteri Filppula-Brayden Point/Brian Boyle-Cedric Paquette-J.T. Brown.