Brayden Point was the last remaining junior bound player in training camp for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, the team announced it has sent Point back to his Western Hockey League team, the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Point, a 3rd round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. After a strong 2014-15 season where he posted 38 goals and 49 assists for 87 points in 60 games, plus two goals and two assists in nine games at the World Junior Championship for Team Canada, Point was signed to an Entry Level Contract with Tampa and a Amateur Try Out with the Syracuse Crunch. With the Crunch, he contributed two goals and two assists in nine games followed by two playoff games where he was held pointless. As an undersized center making his professional debut, he showed very well.
Earlier this offseason, Point was included in Canada's World Junior Championship camp. He played in two exhibition games against the Czech Republic and had three goals and five assists. Talk about starting the year off hot. He carried that into rookie camp and training camp and has shown very strongly. Point, Dominik Masin, and Mitchell Stephens were the only junior bound players to play in preseason games with everyone other than Point being returned to their junior teams before the third preseason game.
Point played in two preseason games with the Lightning where he was a minus-2 and pointless. He did earn a second star nod in the home loss to the Predators and drew two minor penalties as well as getting time on the power play unit. Now, he'll head back to the WHL poised for another tremendous year as well as being nearly a lock to be one of the top players for Canada's WJC squad.
This extended training camp look should tell you exactly what the organization thinks of Point. He stayed longer than any other junior bound player, played in more preseason games, and received more ice time than many Syracuse bound players in those games. Unfortunately, the NHL/CHL agreement will keep Point in juniors for one more year. As soon as his Junior season is over, expect to see him suiting up for the Crunch if they are still playing.
It'd be positive for the NHL and CHL come to an agreement that would allow each organization to designate one under-20 year old player to be eligible to play in the AHL. The NHL/CHL agreement is in place to prevent the NHL from sucking up all of the talent from the CHL after players are drafted and thus diminishing the competitiveness and value of the product. Overall, it's a fine practice. The CHL has a ton of value as a development league for draft and drafted prospects and maintaining the quality of competition is important. However, many players could be much better served developmentally by being able to be assigned to the AHL.
When reflecting on the past 5 seasons, you only find a few players that likely would have been graduated from juniors to the AHL instead of playing out an over-age season in the amateur leagues way. Brett Connolly in 2011-12, Jonathan Drouin in 2013-14, Vladislav Namestnikov could have been sent to the AHL in 2012-13 a year early. And this year, Brayden Point would have been a very obvious candidate to go to the AHL. Not only is he close to ready for the AHL, the Crunch could really use another top line center to push Tanner Richard down to the third line. Instead, Point will go back to the WHL and hopefully we'll see him put up a 100 point season before turning pro full time.