Mikey Eyssimont hopes to find a home with the Lightning

After being constantly on the go, the 26-year-old is looking for stability in Tampa Bay.
Lightning center Michael Eyssimont (23) avoids the check of the Philadelphia Flyers' Justin Braun (61) during the second period of Tuesday's game at Amalie Arena.
Lightning center Michael Eyssimont (23) avoids the check of the Philadelphia Flyers' Justin Braun (61) during the second period of Tuesday's game at Amalie Arena. [ MIKE CARLSON | AP ]
Published Mar. 9|Updated Mar. 9

BRANDON — Mikey Eyssimont has learned to keep things simple, because he knows that at any time he could get a call that could turn everything upside down again.

He’s been living out of a suitcase — four, to be exact — for the past several months. The Lightning became his third organization in a two-month span when they acquired him from the Sharks a week ago for forward Vladislav Namestnikov.

The 26-year-old hopes Tampa Bay can be a landing spot. He knows that sometimes timing matters, and right now the Lightning are looking for a spark from Eyssimont as they try to get faster and tougher before heading into the postseason.

A week ago, Eyssimont was stocking up groceries for his first dinner at his new apartment in San Jose when he received a call to tell him he had been traded to the Lightning.

“So I abandoned my grocery cart and called my mom and dad and went home and packed up,” he said. “It was pretty full, so I hope they got the poultry back in the refrigerator. ... I got the call, and within 12 hours I was on a flight here.”

After playing his first two games on the road, Eyssimont had his best game with the Lightning in his home debut Tuesday against the Flyers. With Pierre-Edouard Bellemare out of the lineup, Eyssimont centered the fourth line between Pat Maroon and Corey Perry.

Eyssimont blossomed. Despite just 10:52 of ice time, he led the Lightning with 10 shot attempts, including four on goal, and added a combination of speed and sandpaper to his line. He just missed scoring his first Lightning goal midway through the third period, ringing a shot off the post on a breakaway.

When Eyssimont was on the ice, the Lightning dominated in shot attempts, 18-11, and had a 14-8 advantage when he skated with Maroon and Perry. Eyssimont played a key role as the Lightning possessed the puck and sustained offensive zone time, something they had struggled with during their five-game losing streak.

“He definitely made a really quick impression (Tuesday) night, but that’s the reason we got him,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “And guys get a little bit more comfortable in their skin. We put him in the middle (Tuesday) night, and that seemed to help him and give him some more ice, so we’ll see. Hopefully this continues.”

Eyssimont pushed the pace for the third line, was nuisance on the forecheck, established a presence in front of the net and hounded the puck. He finished with three hits and two takeaways.

“I really liked his game,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “He’s a great skater, and he was winning a lot of battles. He created a lot of great scoring chances for his line, so he’s a great addition for us and I thought he played great.”

Eyssimont’s path to the NHL wasn’t an easy one. He played two years in the USHL, then three seasons of college hockey at St. Cloud State and three for the Kings’ AHL team in Ontario, California. He did not play a game for the Kings despite several assignments to the taxi squad during the abbreviated 2021 season. He signed with the Jets in the summer of 2021 and made his NHL debut near the end of last season after spending a fourth season in the AHL with Winnipeg’s affiliate in Manitoba.

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“There’s been points in my minor league career where I’ve deserved better, but it doesn’t always work out that way in this business,” Eyssimont said. “So you realize that you have to stick to it and keep showing up every day and keep doing the same things. That’s what I did. I was just the hardest worker every day.”

Eyssimont had one shot over 12 shifts in 5:49 in his first NHL game, April 11, 2022 against the Canadiens. But his stay with the Jets was a short one, lasting just one game before he was sent back to Manitoba.

"It’s kind of a gut punch, but you go back down and you have to do the same exact things every day,” he said. “If you love the game that’s a little bit easier, because I just love playing hockey no matter what league it’s in, no matter what playoffs it is. Whether I’m playing for the Super Bowl or the toilet bowl, I would always say I’m going to play the exact same way and bring it every single day because I love to do it.”

Eyssimont played 19 games with Winnipeg this season before San Jose claimed him off waivers on Jan. 6. He had three goals and eight points in 20 games with the Sharks before he was traded to the Lightning.

He is a pending restricted free agent that the Lightning can retain next season if they make him a $787,500 qualifying offer in the offseason. You get the sense he’d like to stay.

“I’ve watched Tampa Bay play on TV more than any other team the past four years,” Eyssimont said. “I’ve tried to catch as many of their games as I can with what they’ve done. So I know kind of a lot about how they play, how they play individually. I’m just trying to fit in.”

Notes: Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo was suspended two games for spearing Perry late in Tuesday’s game. The NHL’s department of player safety cited “the premeditated nature of the foul against an unsuspecting opponent while after the whistle, the area of the body where the spear was delivered, and the force of the blow.” ... Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who missed Tuesday’s game with an injury, returned to practice Wednesday. His status for Thursday’s game against Vegas is uncertain.

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