BRANDON — The Lightning have a history of success with undrafted free agents, and Jimmy Huntington hopes to continue that trend.
The Lightning added depth by signing the forward in March, and the 20-year-old prospect made his first Tampa Bay appearance in Wednesday’s 2-0 preseason loss to Carolina.
After being passed over by every NHL team in the draft process, Huntington signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent, following the likes of forward Tyler Johnson and 22-year-old AHL Rookie of the Year Alex Barre-Boulet.
“It’s an honor,” Huntington said of his opportunity with the Lightning.
Huntington was injured during the rookie tournament Sept. 7-10 in Tennessee, so coach Jon Cooper got his first look at the young forward on Wednesday. Huntington centered the third line and played 13:51.
“He fared well,” Cooper said. “We count on these guys to kill penalties for us. He won some faceoffs for us and I thought he got stronger as the game went on.”
Huntington played 66 games and recorded 92 points with the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. His line featured Alexis Lafreniere, the top prospect eligible for the 2020 draft, per hockeyprospect.com.
“(Huntington) was the guy driving the line (for Rimouski),” said Lightning assistant general manager Stacy Roest. “The more we watched him, the more we liked him and the better he got.”
Huntington hopes to bring physicality to the ice over the life of his three-year contract.
“I see my role as a two-way forward, playing defense and offense,” Huntington said. “I have three years to prove myself.”