Philip-Michael Devos ' stay in the American Hockey League was supposed to be temporary.
After failing to make the Norfolk Admirals out of training camp last season, the undrafted forward earned himself a December call-up by posting nearly a point-per-game over his first 20 ECHL contests. Still, the boarding pass likely had "round trip" stamped on it.
Devos had other plans.
"When he came back up, he wouldn't let us send him down," former Admirals head coach Jon Cooper said. "We had all intentions of sending him back down, but he played so well for us."
It was about more than his modest 24 points over 52 regular season games.
One year after leading the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring, Devos showed he had the ability to fill in the lineup wherever Cooper needed.
"If somebody was injured on a specific line, I'd jump in," Devos said. "If everybody was healthy, I was playing a little less…Every time I got an opportunity I tried to make the best of it."
Now with Tampa Bay's new AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Devos has developed his own role. In the second year of his two-year AHL contract, the 22-year-old Quebec-native is showing where he belongs.
Even with the NHL lockout bumping a few forwards down to the AHL this season, Devos stuck with Syracuse after camp. The 6-0, 185-pound center began his second year of professional hockey with a few games as a healthy scratch, but like the year before, he waited for his opportunity.
Once it came, Devos took full advantage, earning his way onto one of the team's hottest lines between wingers JT Brown and Brett Connolly .
"They're both very good players who played in the NHL last year," Devos said. "It helps me a lot, and it's just a privilege to play with them, and I'm just trying to do my best."
Devos has posted 11 points, including nine assists, over his first 21 games.
But for Cooper, now the Crunch's head coach, Devos' ability to fit in on a line of that caliber isn't a surprise.
"What he sometimes doesn't have in his feet - because he's not a blazing skater - he makes up for with his mind," Cooper said. "He's really meshed well with Connolly and Brown, two pretty quick skill guys, because he knows how to get those guys the puck."
Devos' role on the Crunch is only increasing. He has been a regular on Syracuse's power play, and has seen more and more time on the penalty kill.
Instead of a bus ride back to the ECHL, Devos has punched his ticket in the AHL.
"Sitting here in a situation with the lockout and a lot of guys down here, he is still finding his way into the lineup," Cooper said. "For a kid last year at this time in the East Coast league, he has come a long way."