Vermin Motivated By First Taste of NHL Action

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Joel Vermin’s first taste of the NHL only made him hungrier for more.

The forward earned a short stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and was one of the team’s final cuts from training camp this fall. Sent to Syracuse, Vermin has recorded three points in four games for the Crunch.

Vermin is now working toward getting another call-up and a permanent spot with the Lightning.

“It’s a big motivation, to be honest,” Vermin said of his time with the Lightning last year. “Once I saw how it is, the NHL, it’s like a drug. You want more of it. You use that as motivation if you’re struggling or things aren’t going the way you want them to. It keeps you motivated.”

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx likes Vermin’s versatility, speed and compete level, but stressed the importance of his winger bringing urgency to the ice every day.

“When you perform and you’re a difference-maker in your league, it’s time to go to the next level,” Groulx said of the 24-year-old. “That’s where he’s at now. He’s in a season where he has to prove he’s a difference-maker and he’s ready for the next level.”

Vermin is focused on honing each aspect of his game instead of any particular skill as he awaits a possible call-up to Tampa Bay.

“Where should I start?” Vermin said when asked about what he’s working on. “Pretty much on everything. On the small stuff like shots, releases, one-on-one battles in the corner, protecting the puck. It’s the little things.”

After spending parts of five seasons with his hometown team, Bern in the Swiss-A League, Vermin finished the 2013-14 season with an eight-game stint Syracuse.

The Lightning’s 2013 seventh-rounder recorded 33 points in 73 games with Syracuse in his first full season in North America, and added 21 points in 37 games last year to earn a six-game stay with the Lightning last year.

That taste has motivated Vermin to work on getting to the next level. He knows he’s close.

“Of course in the first moment, it’s kind of frustrating. You want to be in Florida,” Vermin said of being cut from training camp. “As I came here, I lost the frustration and got back to work. It’s a big motivation that I came that far. You want to do everything and work hard so you’ll be there as quick as you can.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Joel Vermin looks to make a pass against the Comets at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.