BRANDON — Ryan Shannon believes he has the best seat in the house.
With a stall next to Marty St. Louis in the Lightning locker room at the Ice Sports Forum, the right wing daily gets to pick the superstar's brain.
St. Louis, on the other hand, believes Tampa Bay made a terrific move signing as a free agent a player who might be ready to take his game to the next level.
"We're getting him," St. Louis said, "at a time he is hungry."
It is a mutual admiration society, for sure, but the friendship the two forged in a training facility in Darien, Conn., certainly is helping make Shannon's transition to the Lightning easier.
"Marty is very supportive of everybody," Shannon said. "I don't know if I'm getting special treatment. I don't feel like I am, but he's definitely there to help."
Shannon and St. Louis met seven years ago when St. Louis began training in the summer with Ben Prentiss, who already had trained Shannon for three years. Shannon and family live in Darien during the offseason, St. Louis and family in nearby Greenwich.
They are similar in stature.
Shannon, 28, is listed at 5 feet 9, 175 pounds and has 9 percent body fat. St. Louis, 36, is listed at 5-8, 176 pounds and has 8 percent body fat.
In the gym "they are super intense guys," Prentiss said.
But Shannon is "serious," Prentiss said. "Marty has more of a playful side and lightens up when the time is right."
Shannon, who will wear No. 22, wore No. 26 with the Senators because of St. Louis, Prentiss said, and added that St. Louis' encouragement last season helped spark Shannon to seven goals and 16 points in his final 26 games compared with four and 11 in his previous 53.
St. Louis said he and Shannon "talked hockey now and then" but gave Shannon the credit.
"He got put in key situations and proved it to himself," St. Louis said. "If you can prove it to yourself, the things you can do, then you raise the bar. He raised his own bar."
"I started to believe in myself and contributing every night on a consistent basis," Shannon said. "The specific lessons I learned is the approach every day, making sure you are at your best and focused and feeling good about yourself and your game, and if not figuring out what to do to get to that level."
The Lightning signed Shannon to a one-year, $625,000 contract and considers him a skilled player who can play in any situation, makes smart plays and does not panic under pressure.
Shannon also has what coach Guy Boucher called "easy speed. His glide is very good."
Enamored of the havoc three speedsters could cause, Boucher said Shannon could start the season on a line with St. Louis and center Steven Stamkos. The combination will at least be used at some point in games.
Shannon called the prospect "fantastic" but knows, "I need to earn that."
Beginning tonight in a preseason game with the Blues.
"Ryan has potential," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "We think he can take another step given a good opportunity."
St. Louis would agree.