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Transcript: Interview with Brayden Point - how a rookie made the roster

Transcribed for accessibility: Point talks adjusting to the NHL, scoring his first goal, and the perks of playing for the Lightning.

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TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 5: Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning gets ready for the game against the New Jersey Devils at Amalie Arena on November 5, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.
Scott Audette / Getty Images

The Lightning Power Play Podcast is a weekly show hosted by Matt Sammon (@SammonSez), Director of Radio Programming for the team. New episodes of the podcast are released every Tuesday and air multiple times throughout the day on the Lightning Radio Network (@TBLPowerPlay & SoundCloud). In this episode, Sammon recounts Brayden Point’s journey to the NHL and offers some valuable insight into the rookie’s humble nature. It’s a lengthy transcript, but definitely a worthwhile read (and listen!) for anyone curious about how a young player managed to work his way onto such a talented roster.

Quick Note: For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases, “and,” “but,” “you know,” and “um.”

Intro: This week on Lightning Radio’s Power Play

Matt Sammon: There’s no doubt the Lightning is in a position to contend for a Stanley Cup this season. The future looks bright as well, as the club’s farm system is stocked with talent in all positions and at all levels. But every now and then, a player who many people think will be part of the long-term future ends up making a big impact in the present tense. This season, that player is Brayden Point.

Cut to radio broadcast of Tampa Bay Lightning vs Florida Panthers preseason game from September 29, 2016.

Dave Mishkin: Pass is blocked. The Lightning make a steal. [Lightning forward Jeremy] Morin. Left circle. Shot. Save made. SCORE! On the rebound, it’s Brayden Point.

Cut to main podcast commentary

Sammon: A third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Point has impressed in his previous two training camps. But this year, he’s done more than just impress. He earned a spot on the opening night roster - and has done everything he possibly could do to keep that roster spot. And he’s gaining more ice time. And playing in more key situations. An interview with the newest member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brayden Point.

Commercial break

Sammon: We’ve seen something like this happen before in Tampa Bay. A player that fans or the media doesn’t necessarily pencil into the opening night lineup does indeed make it. When you look at the team’s media guide, you see three parts to the player roster. The first part features your NHL-caliber players. These are the guys who have been there, done that - and in the Lightning’s case, most of these guys will be here for awhile. The second part of the roster section is typically referred to as “in the system.” These are the players who are typically in the AHL [American Hockey League]. They may be shuttling back and forth between Tampa and Syracuse [to play for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL]. Or maybe they were on the bubble in training camp and made the team as an extra forward or defenseman when the season started.

The third section is typically referred to as the “prospects section.” Most of these players are long-term projects - draft selections playing junior hockey or internationally. And there’s even a few players drafted fifteen years ago. The team still has rights to them, even though there’s a slim-to-none chance they ever see the light of day in the NHL. This section, with a mish-mosh of young prospects who might just play in the NHL to guys approaching 40 who never will, is where you find Brayden Point’s bio. Wedged in between 33 year old 2001 draft pick Alexander Polushin and 18 year old 2016 draft pick Taylor Raddysh, Point’s bio shows off five seasons of experience with the Moose Jaw Warriors, three stints with the Canadian World Junior teams, and a nine-game cup of coffee with Syracuse in 2015.

Going into camp, one could easily assume that Point was destined to start the season in Syracuse, being positioned for full-time first line duty as one of several NHL ready forwards available for an injury call-up. But a funny thing happened along the way to Syracuse, Point never had to make the trip to the airport. After his second consecutive solid camp and impressive performances in preseason action, Point made the roster out of camp. And worked his way into the opening night lineup, alongside Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov. Nearly a month later, the moment still sticks with him.

Cut to interview

Point: Yeah, just being here. It’s a new group of guys that you’re unfamiliar with. New surroundings, new city. But coming out - the first game, the crowd was awesome. That was pretty cool to see. Just to be - in the anthem, I think, is when I got kind of really jittery. When they were playing the anthem - just thinking that, “It’s the first NHL game.” Kind of like, “You did it, a little bit. You made it here.” But it’s not about making it here, it’s about staying. So I’m just going to try to do that.

Sammon: And when you look across the ice, there’s a bunch of winged wheels [reference to Detroit Red Wings logo] looking back at you, was that kind of mind-blowing too? It’s not just any old game, it’s just an Original Six team too?

Point: Yeah, for sure. That was cool to play Detroit in the first one. Guys like [Henrik] Zetterberg were out there. It’s pretty cool to watch guys growing up and then you’re competing against them. So it’s been pretty cool.

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13: Goalie Ben Bishop #30 and Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate the win against the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.
Scott Audette / NHLI via Getty Images

Sammon: It’s been a pretty cool experience for fans to watch too. As Point’s aggressive, but not reckless play has provided a spark to the Lightning lineup. It’s also provided a healthy dose of competition, as Point’s debut against Detroit saw him log 16 minutes and 12 seconds of ice time. Through 12 games, he’s averaged 16 minutes a game - also seeing ample time on the power play. To Point’s point, he’s making everyone realize he’s not just happy to be here, he wants to stay here for good. And given where he was playing last season [in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan] he’ll work very hard to live the NHL lifestyle - as opposed to riding the buses throughout Western Canada.

Cut to interview

Sammon: The buses are a little warmer here?

Point: Yeah [laughs].

Sammon: Trips are a little shorter?

Point: Yeah, exactly. Shorter trips. You’re on a plane instead of a bus for those trips, so it’s pretty nice.

Sammon: What was the longest trip that you had to do while you were in junior?

Point: In Moose Jaw? We went from Moose Jaw to Portland [Oregon]. I think it was 28 hours on the bus, so that was the longest trip for sure.

Sammon: 28 hours?

Point: Yeah, 28 hours. We went there and then started our U.S. road trip in Portland. We went straight from Moose Jaw to Portland.

Sammon: How exactly do you entertain yourself for 28 hours on a bus?

Point: Well, there’s lots of things. Guys play cards. We brought an Xbox on the bus. There’s always something to do, for sure.

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 15: Brayden Point #19 of the Moose Jaw Warriors celebrates with his teammates after scoring against the Calgary Hitmen during a WHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 15, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Derek Leung / Getty Images

Sammon: There’s only so much one can do for 28 hours on a bus. Only so many hands of poker or rounds of Grand Theft Auto to pass the time. But at least it was familiar scenery for the 20 year old Calgary native. Drafted 14th overall by Moose Jaw in 2011, now officially weighing in at 5’10” 166 pounds, he would model his career after another somewhat undersized speedy forward. Not with the hometown [Calgary] Flames or even the rival [Edmonton] Oilers - rather, a little further west, on the West Coast Express [reference to famous Vancouver Canucks line of Markus Näslund - Brendan Morrison - Todd Bertuzzi].

Cut to interview

Point: I was a Markus Näslund fan, so I was a big Canucks fan. I loved Näslund.

Sammon: How’d you make that choice? It wasn’t really Canucks, it was Näslund, right?

Point: Yeah, it was more Näslund. Then you start watching him play and then you start liking other guys. Like Morrison was on that team and [Edward] Jovanovski, Bertuzzi. Yeah, guys like that. So it was - it kind of started with him, but then I started to like the team after that.

Sammon: What was it about Näslund’s game that kind of made you gravitate towards him?

Point: Just he was so skilled. He had an awesome shot. He was always a really humble guy. Just so talented that he was a guy that I looked up to for sure.

Sammon: Did you ever get a chance to meet him? I mean, maybe not on the ice, but just in some kind of function?

Point: Nope, never. I’ve never met him, but every time I’ve seen an interview with him or he’s at an event or something - he seems like an awesome guy.

Sammon: You can identify with him?

Point: Yeah, he looks like it. And the way he plays, he’s a humble player.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: Humility is a big part of Point’s personality. And while that can be easily found in family, friends, coaches, the foundation of his life growing up - it’s also partially because he was never fully immersed in the spotlight. Despite entering the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with 91 points in 72 games at Moose Jaw - even though the league was building more offense around speedy, solid, two-way players who were often “undersized” in the eyes of many - Point was surprisingly not selected earlier in the draft. With scouting reports noting his solid 200-foot game effort and the ability to be a game-changing playmaker despite his size, Point was pegged by many experts as an early second round pick. But as the draft continued into the third round, fate shined for Point and the Lightning, who were holding the 80th selection. Looking to jump on Point before anyone had realized he was still available, the Lightning moved up one spot in a trade with the Minnesota Wild - throwing in a seventh round pick in the 2015 draft for good measure. The Lightning then nabbed Point, putting to rest an uneasy Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Cut to interview

Point: At that point, it’s such a big deal to guys. But looking back on it now, it’s not the end-all be-all - but definitely at that time, you feel like it is. Sitting in the crowd and watching a bunch of guys go in front of you - it’s never fun, I wouldn’t say. But you’ve definitely got to understand that there’s great players everywhere. So just getting picked was awesome and I’m here now, so it’s all kind of worked out so far.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: The spotlight would eventually come his way. Not for being an NHL draft pick or for any work he continued to do in Moose Jaw, but for representing his home country in the Under 20 World Junior tournament. Now it’s one thing to play for an NHL team or try to contend for a Stanley Cup, but having the collective eyes of a nation stare at you non stop, expecting your team to win this tournament, helped Point on and off the ice deal in pressure situations.

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 02: Forward Brayden Point #9 of Canada moves the puck against Denmark during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on January 02, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Dennis Pajot / Getty Images

Point: Yeah, for sure. I think the second year probably more than the first year. In the first year, we had so many guys in that team that carried the load, it was kind of easy just to tag along. But the second year, I was looked at more. We didn’t have a great tournament. We got to kind of see what it’s like to have people get on you. You realize it’s not that bad. What they’re saying doesn’t really matter. So you just plug away and I think that’s helped me.

Sammon: Kind of helped you put that shell around...

Point: Yeah, exactly. Kind of helped me grow as a person and realize that their opinion doesn’t really, truly matter to you. It’s how you feel about your game. I think that’s helped me for sure.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: It’s helped Point not worry about what others are saying and he can focus on simply improving his game at this level - something that isn’t easy to do, given the big jump from junior hockey to the NHL. Starting the season with Filppula, one of the best playmakers and defensive forwards on the team, Point says there was some temptation to defer to the established players, but that would take away why he was brought here in the first place.

Cut to interview

Point: I came to camp before and practiced with these guys and played with them a little bit before the season too. So you want to get those guys the puck obviously, like you say, because they’re great players, but you can’t be out there looking for them or else you become ineffective. You’ve got to have confidence in your game too and try to make the plays when they’re there.

Sammon: Now you’re talking about getting a little more opportunity. You’re getting ice time. You’re getting power play time. How’s that been for you, with the learning curve? I mean, it just seems like - you make it look easy is what I’m trying to get to.

Point: [laughs] Yeah, it’s been different. Shifts are short and intense. In juniors, sometimes they’re longer and you can relax a little bit out there. It’s more - obviously, a higher paced game. Guys are bigger, stronger - so getting used to that too. We got a pretty good team and that definitely makes it easier for me.

Sammon: Recently you’ve been paired with - or lined up with - Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson. What tidbits have they been able to give to you recently?

Point: There’s so many things. I ask Killer [Killorn] on the wall a lot of the time, what he sees or what he would do in situations because it’s my first year playing the wing, so still trying to learn there, for sure. There’s lots of things. Like little plays, little defensive plays. I’ve asked lots of questions to those guys and they’ve been more than happy to help.

Sammon: Is it tough to make that adjustment from center to wing? I hear some people say it’s good to be in that position. Others say it’s tougher to go from wing to center. What’s your thoughts on that?

Point: Yeah, I think it’d be harder to go from wing to center, I think. It’s just a different position. It’s just different roles. There’s times where you get the puck in certain areas and it’s just different reads that you would have instead of a centerman. Trying to get your timing and your speed up on the wing is a big part of it. I think I’m getting better at that.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: And that’s an understatement. With how much ease Point plays at this level, you forget he was a center in junior. He’s not only adjusting to the NHL game, but a different position - and with only a handful of games under his belt. But while the learning curve is sharp, he’s made a quick curve. Johnson and Killorn note that Point has shown no hesitation in making the right play, whether it’s for him or a linemate. And the chemistry he has with any line combination showed early. One game after his NHL debut, he earned his first NHL point making the play that set up Filppula for the game winning goal against New Jersey.

Cut to radio broadcast of Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils game from October 15, 2016.

Mishkin: And [the faceoff] is won by the Devils, but Point is first to it behind the net. Brayden Point slips it back to Garrison. Right point. He shoots. SCORES! DEFLECTED BY FILPPULA! The Lightning have their first lead at 3-2 with 14:17 left. And Brayden Point made that play and he’ll get his first NHL point.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: Three more points would come along the way in the next six games. And he would tally two goals in shootouts, but those goals aren’t the ones players dream of. In the first 11 games of his career, it could be said that Point had at least 11 glorious scoring chances to net his first NHL goal. Yet a shot would get deflected or snuffed out by a goaltender who was in the right place at the right time. Everyone was wondering - what does he have to do to get that first goal? He and I joked about it the day before the Lightning hosted the Devils on November 5th.

Cut to interview

Sammon: I don’t know how many more candles you have to light here. [Point laughs] I mean, you’ve put yourself in the right position here. Is it tough for you? Or is it like, “Okay, let me just plug away. It’ll happen. And when it happens, the dam will burst.”

Point: Yeah, hopefully that’s the way it goes. [I’m] getting good chances. Not going in. I think I need a lucky one or something - need an open net, something like that. Just keep plugging away and hopefully it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

Sammon: It’s not an open net, it’ll go off somebody’s cheek and in. I mean, that’s how it goes. That’s how Stammer’s went in off of just a stick and just kind of bounced in. That’s how it goes.

Point: Yeah, exactly. You just keep putting pucks to the net and you never know. Like I said, just going to keep trying to shoot, keep playing hard, and hopefully it goes in.

Sammon: It doesn’t weigh on you. I mean, it just - because you’re taking in the whole NHL experience. You’re not really too keyed in on that, are you?

Point: No. I mean, you just want to play good. Obviously contributing offensively is a huge plus when you can do that. But just trying to play well, work hard, make sure I’m responsible defensively, and just get a better feel for the league.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: And just as we had planned it, it wasn’t the beautiful toe-drag, cross-body shot from the right circle that would be goal number one. It was a shot from the point deflecting off a stick that will end up in a frame prominently displayed in the Point household.

Cut to radio broadcast of Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils game from November 5 2016.

Mishkin: Tie up. And it comes to Kucherov. Center point, shot. SCORE! IT WAS DEFLECTED IN FRONT BY BRAYDEN POINT! You called it, Phil [Esposito]! The first NHL goal for Brayden Point. He makes it 3-1 with 14:59 left.

Cut to Coach Jon Cooper’s post-game press conference from November 5, 2016.

Cooper: You talk about a kid that deserved a goal. Nobody deserved a goal more than him. Hopefully this just opens the floodgates for him, because he’s been ironclad for us. And for somebody just coming into the league - I’m sure people look at the stat sheet and say “Well, gosh. No goals and a couple assists,” or whatever he had. He’s made such a positive impact on our team. You watch him on the ice and, more often than not, you’re walking back into the room saying, “He didn’t have any points but he arguably was our best player on the ice.” So it’s really, really - you can just see when he scored too, the relief that was on his face. I was really excited for him - the whole team was.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: And while Jon Cooper, and the team, was thrilled Point scored what turned out to be a crucial insurance goal in the Lightning’s 4-1 win over the Devils that night - as expected, Point was humble about the whole thing.

Cut to Point’s post-game interview from November 5, 2016.

Point: Yeah, it was a lucky, lucky one. Just hit my stick and bounced in, but I’ll take it for sure.

Question: Do you feel like they’ll start to come a little easier now that you finally got that one in there?

Point: I don’t know if they’ll be easier, but maybe some bounces will go my way. I’m not looking too far ahead right now.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: And while Point isn’t looking too far ahead, you can bet December 14th is circled on his calendar. That’s when the Lightning visit the Flames at the Saddledome. And there may be a large allotment of tickets from Point at the will-call window.

Cut to interview

Point: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be buying a lot. My first game in Calgary. I mean, a lot of people supported me. I’m sure they’d all want to come out and watch. It’d be pretty cool.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: So he’s 20 years old, will soon be playing in front of his family and friends - and in the NHL, to boot. And he’s got his first NHL goal already in the books. So what spoils go to this victor? A large pinkish protein shake, hand delivered by Assistant Athletic Trainer Mike Poirier during our interview.

Cut to interview

Sammon: Is that shake as delicious as it looks?

Point: Yeah, these are awesome. [Sammon laughs] He makes these shakes and they’re unbelievable, if you ever get a chance to try one.

Sammon: I’ll take your word for it.

Point: Do you want to try this one right now?

Sammon: Is there some Captain Morgan in there?

Point: No [laughs]

Sammon: Let me try a sip of that.

Point: Yeah. They’re unreal.

Sammon: Oh my lord.

Point: Yeah, so that’s a huge plus too.

Sammon: I’m going to run around the block. I’m going to need to, anyway.

Point: [chuckles] That’s a huge plus about playing here - is to get the shakes.

Cut to commentary

Sammon: It’s the simple things enjoyed by Brayden Point, including thick, not-so-tasty protein shakes. Something he may not have had on those 28 hour bus rides from Moose Jaw to Portland. And while a player should never get too comfortable, it’s not that far of a stretch to say the next bus Point rides on is the one taking him, and the entire Lightning team, to the next NHL arena.

My thanks to Brayden Point for joining us on this podcast. Also, my thanks to Lightning radio intern Nick Lavera for getting our sound from Jon Cooper and Brayden Point following the night of his first goal - November 5th against the New Jersey Devils. And my thanks to you, for listening. I’m your host Matt Sammon. Make sure you tune in to another episode of the Power Play Podcast next Tuesday, from Lightning Radio.

Outtro: Access all episodes of Lightning Radio’s Power Play at TampaBayLightning.com and follow the Lightning Radio network on Facebook and Twitter (@BoltsRadio). This is Lightning Radio.