What to Expect from Joel Vermin

The Tampa Bay Lightning recalled forward Joel Vermin from the Syracuse Crunch today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Vermin, 23, has skated in 12 games with the Crunch this season, posting three goals and 10 points to go along with two penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on Syracuse for both assists (seven) and points. Vermin has recorded two goals and five points over his past two games for the Crunch.

The Bern, Switzerland, native has appeared in 93 career AHL games, all with Syracuse during the past three seasons, notching 16 goals and 44 points. Vermin set career highs last season for games played (73), goals (12), assists (21) and points (33). He’s also skated in three AHL playoff games, registering one assist.

Vermin was originally drafted by the Lightning in the seventh round, 186th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.

BP Commentary: Every year there seems to be one or two players in the system who make a big jump. Last year it was Nikita Nesterov and to an extent, Tanner Richard. This year in the rookie tournament in Estero, Florida, it was Joel Vermin.

Talk about good timing.

Vermin is entering the last year of his entry-level contract even though this is just his second year in North America. Highly abnormal, Vermin played the first year of his ELC in Europe.

This is a decision year for Vermin.

The undersized winger came into rookie camp and Estero with a new ingredient to his game – a pest. Much like Brett Connolly late in his time with Syracuse when he was trying to get another recall, Vermin kept this skill and vision he showed last year, but was initiating more contact during play and after the whistle. Several times in Estero he had the opposition looking to take him out rather than pay attention to their assignments, and once after scoring a goal, Vermin was crosschecked to the ice for making contact with the goaltender. He conveniently ended up landing on top of the cross-checker.

This year in Syracuse, coach Rob Zettler has noticed a change.

“I find that he’s going to the harder areas and he’s using his speed a lot better than he did last year,” Zettler told Bolt Prospects last month. “He’s shown a bit of a creative side too, which I really like.

“He’s playing more of a north-south, direct-attack game,” Zettler said. “He’s getting into the harder areas, and he knows that’s what he has to do to be successful to have a chance at moving on to the next level. He’s shown he can do that.”

More good timing.

The Lightning are in a scoring slump and have been unable to generate second chances because players have been unable or unwilling to go to the blue ice and get their noses dirty. Vermin and fellow Crunch call-ups Jonathan Marchessault and Mike Blunden can help with that.

Vermin played most of last season on the perimeter, and while he showed good awareness with the puck, he played rather timid and avoided contact. This year has been the opposite, as Zettler mentioned, and he’s tied for the team league in points because of it.

Vermin projects as a tweener forward in the NHL, alternating between some scoring line time and some bottom-six time. He doesn’t have the skillset needed for consistent top-6 time, nor does he have the size to be consistently effective on the bottom lines. He does have grit and just enough skill to survive, however, and his tendency to show up at opportune times could keep in him the NHL longer than originally expected.

Zettler recently told Syracuse play-by-play announcer Dan D’Uva that he’s shown Vermin (and others) video of Ondrej Palat as an example of what it takes and looks like to play at the NHL level. Right now Vermin is closer to Jonathan Marchessault in player type than Palat, but the book is still being written.

The next chapter could be Thursday night when the Lightning face the New York Rangers.

(Jeremy Houghtaling contributed to this report. Photo by Jeremy Houghtaling.)