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When you think you've got Brayden Point figured out, a surprise awaits

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates a he scores beating Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) to go up 3 to 1 during third period action at at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/26/17). The goal went on to be the game winner as the Bolts won 3-2. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates a he scores beating Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) to go up 3 to 1 during third period action at at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/26/17). The goal went on to be the game winner as the Bolts won 3-2. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
Published Dec. 15, 2017

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Center Brayden Point is the Lightning's calmest player, both on the ice and off, according to Victor Hedman.

Point's soft-spoken nature belies his baby face and 5-foot-10 frame.

"I've never seen him angry before," Hedman said.

That made what happened in the Lightning's 4-1 Thursday win over Arizona stunning. Point, 21, got in his first NHL fight, trading blows with Arizona center Brad Richardson in the third period.

That clinched Point's first "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" (goal, assist, fight). Coach Jon Cooper said Point would be one of the last players he'd expect to complete that feat.

But Point has been catching people by surprise his entire career.

"He looks like a little kid off the ice," said Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, who played with Point in juniors. "But once he gets on the ice, he looks like a man."

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Edmundson remembers when Point arrived in Moose Jaw (Western Hockey League) in 2011-12. Point was a scrawny 15-year-old, one captain joking he looked like one of the players' younger brothers. Point, on a line with future NHL forward Quinton Howden, ended up leading the Warriors in playoff points (10 points, 14 games).

"Once he came up to our team, I kind of knew he was a player," Edmundson said.

Then there was the 2014 World Junior Championships, when Point made the team as the 13th forward. He became a regular.

"He's such a talented player, he can adapt to all situations," said Coyotes' Dylan Strome, a Point World Juniors teammate. "Someone got hurt in (2014) and he stepped up and was a big part of that team."

The Lightning drafted Point in the third round of that 2014 NHL draft. Just two years later, Point became the only first-year pro since GM Steve Yzerman took over in 2010 to make the team out of training camp.

By the end of last season, due to injuries, Point was the No. 1 center, finishing with 15 goals.

"From the start of training camp last year, you could see he has it in him," Hedman said. "It's a process for every young player. Pointer is a 200-foot player, he's really reliable defensively, he's killing penalties, very good with the puck, making plays. He's a very, very good player."

Point's breakout rookie season earned him a spot on Team Canada's World Championship team in May. On a team filled with veterans, Point was one of the silver medalist's best players.

"I was surprised how good he was, honestly," Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. "I didn't know much about him, like a lot of the guys. He came into World Championships and was one of our best players, very talented. Took a lot of guys by surprise how skilled he is, how fast he is. He's definitely a special player."

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Point has turned into one of the Lightning's core players, along with the likes of Hedman, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Other than Kucherov and Vasilevskiy, Point might be the MVP of the team's historic 23-6-2 start.

Point's line routinely is tasked with shutting down the opponent's top players, with Cooper believing he could one day win a Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward. Point also has 14 goals, second to only Kucherov's league-leading 22. Six of Point's goals are game-winners, the second-year pro becoming the first player in franchise history to score winners in three straight games. He's racked up 11 more goals and 17 more points than he did through 30 games last season.

"I'm just feeling more comfortable," Point said. "The first year, you're just trying to get your feet wet, and I didn't know if I was staying up or going down (to AHL). But I'm feeling more comfortable, and playing with two great linemates (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat). They help."

Point didn't need any help Thursday in taking on Richardson, a 6-foot forward who has 30 pounds on him. Point, who had a handful of fights in four seasons at Moose Jaw, didn't back down.

"I'm not a guy that goes looking for that for sure," said Point, smiling. "I'm just happy that I could stand in there and do okay."

Moose Jaw coach Tim Hunter loved it. He's one of the few who has seen Point angry.

"It wasn't pretty," Hunter said. "I benched him for a few shifts and he broke his stick on the boards and said, 'I'm ready to play now!' "

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.