BRANDON — Lightning forward Taylor Raddysh could argue that this season’s training camp is the most important one of his career to date.
Drafted in the second round in 2016, the 6-foot-3, 198-pound wing has spent the past three seasons with AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch (totaling 49 goals and 61 assists in 159 games). Now Raddysh feels ready for the next step in his career: an NHL roster spot.
With the summer departures of players like Tyler Johnson, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde, Raddysh sees an opportunity for a bottom-six roster spot.
While with the Crunch, Raddysh focused on dropping some weight to improve his speed. Since last season’s camp in January 2021, he has lost 11 pounds.
“The speed of the game’s just so fast,” Raddysh said. “For me to make that change was a big help.”
In a perfect world, coach Jon Cooper would have been able to get Raddysh into his first NHL game last season.
“He was one guy I wish we could have got in,” Cooper said. “But because of salary cap implications and things like that, we couldn’t. And he’s paid his dues.”
When Cooper watches Raddysh play, he’s reminded of Ross Colton’s journey from the minors to his NHL debut back in February and the progression that followed (culminating with a milestone, Stanley Cup-clinching goal against the Canadiens).
“(Raddysh) hasn’t quite gotten (his shot) yet, but if this is any indication, he’ll have every opportunity now,” Cooper said. “He looks poised and ready both physically and mentally to take the next step, and now it’s up to him.”
Others at camp have noticed a change in Raddysh’s game, too.
Colton, who played with Raddysh for two years in Syracuse, said it easily could have been Raddysh instead of him playing last season in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Colton said Raddysh’s “unbelievable shot” and knack for scoring help him stand out on the ice.
Center Anthony Cirelli said Raddysh has put in the work to help ensure he’s ready for the big leagues.
“He’s grown a lot and his game is faster, (he’s) stronger on the puck, (he’s) winning battles…,” Cirelli said. “Playing against him here, he’s looking really good. He’s come a long way and it really helps us push each other.”
And it makes sense. Last season, Raddysh spent much of his time around the Lightning on the taxi squad. He saw first-hand what it takes to make it, and win, in this league.
“That was cool just to be able to be a part of it and just to see their everyday lives in the playoffs and being there the whole ride ... was a great experience,” Raddysh said.
In the offseason, Raddysh signed a three-year deal along with Syracuse teammate Boris Katchouk, who also is inching closer to an NHL role.
“The challenge for young players, and it’s around the league, is that consistency, being good enough, being fit enough, being professional enough to bring it night in and night out,” general manager Julien BriseBois said at media day last week.
And as the team’s first preseason game approaches Tuesday at Carolina, Raddysh knows the pressure is on.
“These last couple of years in Syracuse, they gave me every opportunity to try to get better and I feel like I’ve used all my tools and the people around me to improve my game,” Raddysh said. “I feel like it’s taken a big step.”
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