Lightning's Reese tracked junior goalie Mason
This was exactly what former Lightning goaltenders coach Jeff Reese was supposed to do as the team approached the 2006 draft, checking out all possible leads and prospects. It's just interesting the story that was told Tuesday about how Reese had a private workout with Steve Mason when Mason was a member of the OHL London Knights and was headed for that summer's draft.
Mason, of course, is one of the stories of the season as the rookie is leading the Blue Jackets, who face the Lightning tonight, to the verge of their first playoff appearance in their eight-season history. Mason entered Tuesday second in the league with a 2.23 goals-against average, tied for eighth with 30 wins, tied for seventh with a .919 save percentage and first with nine shutouts.
Mason was not the best goalie on his team in 2005-06. That was Adam Dennis, who was 44-9-4 with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Mason played just 12 games the whole season. He said he might have started eight.
But as Reese said Tuesday, "I liked him a lot. I liked his size, but I loved the way he moved for his size." Mason also catches with his right hand, somewhat unusual, and it gives shooters a different look.
To double-check his scouting, Reese got the private workout in London, Ontario. Mason on Tuesday said the practice lasted about an hour. He said some teammates took shots on him and did some "pretty routine drills to get an idea of what my game was all about."
The Lightning ultimately went another way, drafting Riku Helenius with the 15th overall pick. Mason, the 69th pick, seems the steal of that draft.
This isn't to say Tampa Bay made a mistake. Helenius, still a rough work in progress, might turn out to be a great pro, and the Lightning has a legitimate No. 1 in Mike Smith. It was just interesting the way Mason was on Reese's radar.
"I appreciate the time he took to give me a little bit of hope," Mason said. "I wasn't selected here, but I can't complain about being selected by Columbus."
Other stuff from this morning: Former Lightning center Chris Gratton, picked up by the Blue Jackets on re-entry waivers, said he would have liked his situation with Tampa Bay handled differently. He said he believes the Lightning was hoping he would retire or not report to the minors so he could be suspended and not be paid. Rather, Gratton, who is making $1.25-million, said he went to AHL Norfolk with a good attitude, hoping another team would take a chance on him, which Columbus did. "I was disappointed the way things ended up," Gratton said. "If I was going to go out, I wanted to go out on my terms, not forced into it." ... The Lightning blue line has contributed two goals and 13 assists in the past six games. Tampa Bay has scored 18 goals in that stretch, an average of three. For the season, the team is averaging 2.6. "Getting that offense the last six games has helped our goal production, absolutely," coach Rick Tocchet said.