Prospect of the Week: 12-3-14

By Jeremy Houghtaling

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for December 3, 2014 is … Philippe Paradis, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).

Philippe Paradis’ mindset remains the same every shift.

No matter the line or who he is paired with, the Syracuse Crunch forward is focused on checking hard, creating space, and making the right passes to his linemates. Even after registering five goals and an assist in the last three games – statistically the best week of his professional career that earned him our Prospect of the Week award – Paradis knows he has to stick with his gritty game instead of worrying about the points.

“I don’t think about that,” said Paradis, who recorded a natural hat trick against Binghamton Friday. “I play my game every day and try to be as good as I can on the ice. Every shift I make my presence known on the ice. That’s it. I just try to be in the right place at the right time every time I’m on the ice.”

After being held without a point over eight games in October, Paradis was shuffled around in the lineup and ended up with Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard. While Paradis’ ability to throw around his 6-2, 213-pound frame has helped his line gain possession and intimidate defensemen, Gourde has gone to the net and Richard has shown off his playmaking ability.

“That’s my type of play,” Paradis said. “Whoever I would have been on the ice with, I would have played the same way. I just try to get them the puck and go to the net.”

Paradis has recorded 11 points in 13 games, five away from his career high with five months left in the season. The trio of Paradis, Richard, and Gourde totaled 41 points in November, helping Gourde earn the honor of AHL Player of the Month.

“We don’t think about scoring,” Paradis said. “We just play hard, doing our stuff. We try to not have turnovers and just play hard … We’re three fast guys and we can go check the other guys. We play gritty and make a lot of space on the ice and just keep it simple.”

Despite being the highest drafted player on his line, Paradis – the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2009 first rounder – doesn’t see himself as a skill player. Never relied on to put up points, the 23-year-old has spent most of his time in Syracuse over the past three seasons on a checking line.

“We’re not drafted for the same reason,” Paradis said of himself compared to his linemates. “Back in junior, I was making points, but I was playing the same game. I was hard on the body, I was good defensively … I didn’t get drafted to score 50 goals or points a season.”

For Crunch head coach Rob Zettler, a big part of Paradis’ progress has been the work he has put in off the ice, which has led to more confidence with the puck. His play has earned him extra ice time, including on the penalty kill and late in games.

“He’s hanging onto it, not just throwing it away or dumping it in when he doesn’t have to,” Zettler said of Paradis’ play with the puck. “He’s hanging on, he’s looking to make the next play and keep possession of the puck. I think that’s why that line has had success – they’ve been able to sustain possession in the O-zone.”

Paradis’ rights were dealt by Carolina to Toronto for Jiri Tlusty in 2009, then from Toronto to Chicago seven months later in the Kris Versteeg/Victor Stalberg deal. Paradis spent the first couple seasons of his pro career with the Blackhawks organization before being dealt to Tampa Bay in April 2013 for the rights to Kirill Gotovets. Paradis earned a second contract with the Lightning last summer as a restricted free agent. Now settled, he is finding his groove with the Crunch though his contract runs out next summer.

“This is a three-week snippet of his career, and I pray that it stays with us all year long and into next year,” Zettler said. “It’s up to him what he does with it. As long as he keeps playing like he is, he’s going to get every opportunity to succeed as long as I’m coaching here.”

Paradis’ ceiling as a prospect is an NHL fourth line energy player. He is playing at his floor – a valuable minor league role player. Like JP Cote on defense and Syracuse captain Mike Angelidis at center, Paradis is finding his niche as an on- and off-ice mentor for younger prospects in the Lightning organization, the value of which can’t be overstated. Paradis could earn some time in Tampa toward the end of this year if injuries occur to fourth liners. He could also be with the Black Aces should Syracuse not go multiple playoff rounds and the Lightning go deep in the playoffs.

Honorable Mention: Danick Gauthier, Wichita (ECHL)

2014-2015 Prospect of the Week winners:

November 24: Adam Erne, W, (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, Canada).
November 18: Yanni Gourde, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 12: Cedric Paquette, C/W, (Tampa Bay Lighting, NHL, USA).
November 5: Joel Vermin, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 28: Adam Erne, W, (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, Canada).
October 21: Jonathan Drouin, W, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
October 15: Vlad Namestnikov, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).

Chad Schnarr contributed to this report