Thursday, April 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: How Brayden Point got here, and why he's staying

TAMPA — The "man cave" in the garage of Todd Hudson's Saskatchewan ranch is basically a shrine to Lightning rookie forward Brayden Point.

The Hudsons were Point's host family the four years he played for the Western Hockey League's Moose Jaw Warriors. Decorating Hudson's cedar-covered cave are two framed Point jerseys between those of former Warriors greats Theo Fleury, the retired NHL wing, and Morgan Rielly, the Leafs' top-pair defenseman.

It's fitting. Like the 5-foot-6 Fleury, Point, at 5-11, has felt the "too small" label. The Lightning actually went to scout Rielly at Moose Jaw in five seasons ago when they first saw his teammate Point. Then a slight center fresh out of midget hockey, Point shined in the playoffs, starting his path to becoming a regular in the Lightning lineup.

"He's just proved to everyone around him and all his teammates that he belongs where he is now," Hudson said. "I'm not surprised."

Many were stunned when Point, 20, made the Lightning out of training camp. He became the only first-year pro with AHL eligibility to start the season in Tampa Bay since general manager Steve Yzerman took over in 2010. Some assumed Point would get sent back to the AHL when wing Ryan Callahan returned from hip surgery in early November.

But here he is, a fixture in the Lightning top-six and power play, with seven points in his first 20 NHL games heading into tonight's game with the Flyers at Amalie Arena.

Yzerman recently informed Point he could look for a place to live in Tampa and move out of the downtown hotel he's stayed at since September training camp. Point is here to stay.

"He put us on notice," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's not here to go to the American League. If he could make this hockey team, he was going to do it. He never gave us a reason to send him down."

Point grew up in Calgary. Living on the Hudson ranch with 20,000 feeder cattle and 1,000 cows was a huge change. Point pitched in, sweeping the garage, shoveling feed, collecting firewood.

On spring Sundays, he joined Hudson and a few others hunting, mostly for gophers.

Todd recalls the first time he saw Point, when Point joined Moose Jaw for the 2011-12 playoffs.

"The day he showed up, he was 125 pounds, he was in the dressing room and the captain of the Warriors was Kendall McFaull. He's looking at this young kid like, 'What are you doing here?' McFaull thought he was a brother of someone who was playing, was going to kick him out."

Point proved he belonged. He tied for the team lead with seven goals, 10 points in 14 games. "It was like, 'Wow,' " Hudson said. "Is this kid for real?"

•••

It was Rielly who unintentionally put Point on the Lightning's radar. Yzerman and Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray went to scout Rielly, who would go No. 5 overall to Toronto in the 2012 NHL draft. Tampa Bay kept its eyes on Point, trading up a spot in the third round of the 2014 NHL draft to snag him.

"There's not many times where he's not the hardest working player, not many times where he's not the smartest player, and that's with and without the puck," Murray said.

Point racked up three consecutive 35-plus goal seasons in Moose Jaw and became captain. Coach Tim Hunter said Point was the best player in the WHL last season.

Point got to meet Fleury at the team's 50th anniversary celebration. Hudson took a photo of the two, noting Point is 4 inches taller than Fleury, who played 16 years in the NHL.

"I said to Pointer, 'He's a small guy, you're not a small guy,' " Hunter said. " 'You should be able to play in the NHL, so don't let anybody tell you're small.' "

Said Hudson: "That kind of made Brayden feel pretty good. Here's a superstar and I'm bigger than you. I'll be all right.' You can see his mind going."

•••

Point never saw Fleury play. He wasn't even a Flames fan.

Point idolized the Canucks' Markus Naslund, a poster of the wing still on his bedroom wall.

From a young age, Point dreamt big.

"I'm sure he was (Steven) Stamkos in the driveway," Grant said.

Point impressed everybody, including Stamkos, at last year's training camp.

His hockey sense was "off the charts," Cooper said.

The skill was there. "He's got everything," Tyler Johnson said.

So was the maturity. "He doesn't seem like a 20-year-old,' Callahan said.

This year, Point had a better opportunity in camp thanks to 12 Lightning players participating in the World Cup. With Callahan rehabbing and Nikita Kucherov's contract holdout, Point stated his case.

"He deserved a spot on the roster," Yzerman said. "He makes us a better team."

But Point may not be in Tampa without the transformation in his skating. He worked on it all last season, with skating coach Barb Underhill focusing on his ankle flexion and explosiveness.

"He went from being an acceptable skater to being an exceptional skater," Hunter said.

And an NHL regular. When Point recorded his first point Oct. 15 with an assist against the Devils, he mailed the commemorative puck to Hudson, figuring the man cave would be a perfect spot.

"It's on its way," Hudson said.

And so is Point.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTImes_JSmith.

Late Monday summary

Predators1203
Lightning0011

First Period—1, Nashville, Arvidsson 6 (Ellis, Josi), 4:25. Penalties—None.

Second Period—2, Nashville, Subban 4 (Ellis, Ribeiro), 9:55 (pp). 3, Nashville, Subban 5 (Ellis, Forsberg), 12:35. Penalties—Point, TB, (tripping), 8:19; Killorn, TB, (hooking), 10:23; Subban, NSH, (roughing), 14:45; Namestnikov, TB, (roughing), 14:45.

Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Johnson 7 (Hedman, Kucherov), 19:10. Penalties—Arvidsson, NSH, (cross checking), 7:54; Hedman, TB, (interference), 8:23; Fisher, NSH, (roughing), 14:19; Paquette, TB, (interference), 17:23; Ellis, NSH, Major (interference), 18:27; Brown, TB, (roughing), 18:27; Ellis, NSH, Misconduct (misconduct), 18:27; Brown, TB, Misconduct (misconduct), 18:27.

Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-7-10—25. Nashville 10-13-7—30.

Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Nashville 1 of 4.

Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 7-6-0 (30 shots-27 saves). Nashville, Rinne 7-5-3 (25-24).

A—17,113 (17,113). T—2:36.

 
Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

I guess the lesson here is never believe a hockey player when he says what happens in a scrum at the end of a playoff game doesn't carry over into the next game. It sure looks like the Lightning and Devils won't be vacationing together this summer.Th...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. — Both sides were in agreement Tuesday that the shenanigans during the final minute of Monday's Game 3 would not carry over to Game 4."I think the emotion of a game in a series carries over, (but) what happened at end I don't think...
Published: 04/18/18
Tyler Johnson in Lightning lineup tonight, Ryan Callahan out

Tyler Johnson in Lightning lineup tonight, Ryan Callahan out

UPDATE: NEWARK, N.J. — Tyler Johnson is in the lineup tonight for Game 4 against the Devils, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Ryan Callahan is not.Callahan is missing his second game of this best-of-seven game series after suffering wha...
Published: 04/18/18
Live blog: Lightning looks to rebound in Game 4

Live blog: Lightning looks to rebound in Game 4

Follow our live coverage of the opening-round NHL playoff series between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils. Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journalists will chronicle the action on and off the ice through updates, analysis, ph...
Published: 04/18/18
Saturday’s Game 5 start time for Lightning-Devils? 3 p.m.

Saturday’s Game 5 start time for Lightning-Devils? 3 p.m.

Saturday's Game 5 between the Lightning and Devils at Amalie Arena will start at 3 p.m. and be televised locally on NBC.Also, on Saturday, the Blue Jackets at Capitals game will start at 3 p.m., and the Maple Leafs at Bruins game will begin at 8 and ...
Published: 04/18/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tom Jones previews Game 4 of Lightning-Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tom Jones previews Game 4 of Lightning-Devils

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to preview Game 4 of the opening-round playoff series between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils on today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.Plus, the Rays lose to the Rangers 7-2 as Yonny Chirinos is r...
Published: 04/18/18