BRANDON — For Lightning wing Alex Barre-Boulet, the time is now.
He is in his sixth training camp with Tampa Bay, entering each having built a more impressive AHL resume. But he has yet to stick on the Lightning roster, accumulating just 32 NHL games over the past three seasons.
“It’s no secret,” Barre-Boulet said. “I’m 26 years old now, so it’s almost make it or break.
“Just play my game. You know, I’m not trying to do too much, just keep it simple and work hard and try to show the staff that I can play here.”
Barre-Boulet entered this season with perhaps his best chance yet. He has spent most of camp slotted on the third line alongside wing Tanner Jeannot and center Nick Paul. There’s also an opportunity for Barre-Boulet to show his value on the team’s second power-play unit.
Entering the final year of his current three-year deal, Barre-Boulet is coming off a career-best 84-point season at AHL Syracuse, which included 60 assists, second-most in the league. Now, he has to show he can score in the NHL, too, to stick.
“Listen, he has proven all he can prove in the American League, and that’s what you want to do,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “There are spots on this team open, more than probably have been in the last five years.
“So you’ve got to play to your strengths. The kid can put the puck in the net, so put the puck in the net. In this league every year, it seems to get faster. And it’s not just for BB, it’s for everybody. You’ve got to be able to keep up. ... Everybody’s got opportunity, especially him.”
Barre-Boulet made a strong first impression in Tuesday’s preseason opener in Carolina, opening the scoring with a power-play goal. He took the puck above the right circle and drove into open space in the high slot before launching a wrist shot that beat Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen.
“I think it’s about just doing the same thing I was doing at Syracuse, but maybe with a little bit more confidence, believe in myself that I can make plays,” Barre-Boulet said. “Playing in this league, I think if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s not going to work. So I think everybody that plays in this league is confident enough, so it’s up to me to just get my confidence up, make some plays and prove to the staff that I can play here.”
This offseason, Barre-Boulet concentrated on improving his speed. He went to Toronto for a week to work with Lightning skating coach Barb Underhill and got more work with her when he arrived in Tampa early.
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“I could always be faster, and I was working hard on it in the offseason,” Barre-Boulet said. “But again, it’s really the confidence. Once you get on the ice, it’s believing in yourself, that you can keep up with the pace and believe you can make plays. That’s what’s going to get you a job.”
Last season in Syracuse, Barre-Boulet reemerged as a power-play threat, scoring seven of his 24 goals with the man advantage. It was reminiscent of his first two AHL seasons, when he scored 17 power-play goals in 2018-19 and nine in 2019-20.
Barre-Boulet’s strong one-timer from the right circle also can help him win a job, because of the loss of Ross Colton, who previously provided that element on the power play. Colton was traded to Colorado in the offseason as a salary-cap casualty.
“The power play’s always been a big part of my game since I’ve been playing junior,” Barre-Boulet said. “I was always a slower guy, so I was trying to take advantage of the power play to have more space. If I have a shot there, then I’ll try to fit in, but right now I’m just focusing here on playing my 5-on-5 as best as I can.”
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