Two years and one week ago, Tyler Johnson’s mind was on two WHL scoring titles and helping his hometown Spokane Chiefs increase its win totals.
The undrafted, undersized sniper had no clear track for his hockey career when the Tampa Bay Lightning came calling and signed the free agent to a three-year entry-level contract.
His race to the NHL was now set, but how quickly he’d break through the ribbon was up to him.
He immediately rewarded the Lightning by finishing tops in the WHL in goals with 53 in 2011, and was just one point shy of being its top scorer with 115 points in 71 games.
The following year – his first year pro – Johnson made Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman look like a genius when the Washington state native scored 31 goals and 68 points and was an integral part of a championship Norfolk Admirals team that went down as one of the best in AHL history.
Tyler Johnson tried to not think about it.
One step away from achieving his dream, the Syracuse Crunch forward, seeing teammate after teammate getting called up to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, kept a positive attitude.
“Everyone’s dream is to play in the NHL, so you’re always thinking about it,” Johnson said Tuesday. “At the same time, you can’t really worry about it. You have worry about playing here, and getting better. That’s what this league is about – getting better.”
Twenty-six of the 46 players participating in the AHL All-Star Game Jan. 28 have since made their NHL debuts, including the Crunch’s Richard Panik and Radko Gudas. Although Johnson was given a look during the abbreviated training camp after the end of the lockout, Johnson didn’t stick and still hasn’t played in a regular season NHL game.
Brendan Mikkelson is looking forward to the stretch run and playoffs, even if it is in the American Hockey League.
Mikkelson, who had trouble consistently cracking the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, cleared waivers and was sent to the minor leagues Monday. The Regina native arrived in New York Tuesday, ready to refocus and rejoin the Eastern Conference-leading Syracuse Crunch.
Playing just four games with the Lightning this season, Mikkelson may stay in Syracuse through the Calder Cup playoffs, which would be his first time playing in the postseason since his rookie year with the Portland Pirates in 2007-08.
“I haven’t played in a week or so now,” Mikkelson said. “Hopefully I’ll be in the lineup and can contribute, and be someone who helps the team.”
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for March 12 is … Radko Gudas, D, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA).
Lightning prospect followers have waited both patiently and impatiently for Radko Gudas to be called up to Tampa Bay, and it finally happened on Monday – but that’s not why he’s our Prospect of the Week.
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman called up 2010 third round draft pick Radko Gudas from the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch today.
Gudas, a right-handed, people-moving defenseman, has been knocking at the NHL’s door for the past year, but especially in the last two months. While Tampa Bay’s defense has struggled, Gudas has been playing big, effective minutes in all game situations in Syracuse - just like Yzerman wanted.
It was only a matter of time before Yzerman couldn’t afford to leave Gudas in the AHL any longer.