The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Raw Charge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Moving up one spot from last year’s rankings due to Nikita Kucherov no longer being eligible, we have Brayden Point coming in at second in the Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25. Point followed up on his impressive rookie NHL season with a superb sophomore season. He had 18 goals and 40 points in 68 games played as rookie. He followed that with 32 goals and 66 points while playing in all 82 games in 2017-18. He added another seven goals and 16 points in 17 playoff games for the Lightning.
Point was originally drafted by the Lightning at 79th overall in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Steve Yzerman wanted Point so badly that he made a deal with the Minnesota Wild to trade up from the 80th overall spot to make sure they got Point, giving up a seventh round pick in the 2015 draft. Looking back, that was certainly well worth the price to make sure they got Point. The only other player drafted after Point in 2014 that has produced as well as him so far is Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators. In fact, there are only eleven players from this draft that have played more games, seven with more goals, eight with more assists, and eight with more points than Point has so far in the NHL.
The knocks on Point before he was drafted mostly centered around his size. He was listed at 5’9” and 160 pounds, which may have actually been an overestimation of his size at the time. He was a very fast player in juniors, but some scouts had some doubt about his skating when he moved up. With his smaller stature, he also had a hard time battling along the boards.
Since being drafted, he’s picked up some height and weight, and is now listed at 5’10” and 166 pounds by the Lightning’s official roster. That extra bit of size and some added muscle helped him to be more effective along the boards. What I have seen with his skating since that first pre-season is that he has become quicker in his short-area skating. He’s quicker in being able to move five or ten feet in the zone, whether to get into a better shooting position or better defensive position. He’s also possibly even picked up a step or two on his top-end speed. At last year’s All-Star Game, he came in second to Connor McDavid in the fastest skater competition.
A couple of summers ago, it was reported that he was working with renowned skating coach Barb Underhill. A former figure skater, she has been working with the Lightning for some time now, particularly at their Prospect Development Camp and during training camp to help players improve on their skating. She’s also been linked to a number of other NHLers for private work during the offseason, and works with other NHL teams as well.
So, what makes Point so good?
To start, he’s smart. That is one of the most important things for players in today’s NHL. A player needs to know where to go, when to go there, and how to get there. If he can’t do that, he’s going to constantly be out of position and missing out on opportunities. Furthermore, he has that instinct in the offensive and defensive zone.
Point spent most of the season playing on the second line with Tyler Johnson and was joined at times by Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, J.T. Miller, and Alex Killorn on the left side. Pointed ended the season with the second best adjusted CF% at even strength among the Lightning’s full-time forwards. He was also fourth in primary points per 60 minutes and goals for percentage while being second in expected goals for percentage.
During the playoffs, we saw Point being asked to take on the opposing team’s top lines. As a result, his possession numbers during the playoffs took a hit, but he remained offensively successful. During the first round against the New Jersey Devils, he effectively shut down Taylor Hall when the Lightning played at home. Against the Boston Bruins, he did the same to the Patrice Bergeron line. He and his linemates were so effective against Bergeron’s line, that Boston tried to move that line away from Point when the series went to Boston. I say “tried” because the Point line proceeded to score a couple goals quickly in game three and forced Boston to return to the Bergeron line facing Point.
Point’s line didn’t fare as well against the Ovechkin line, though, and could not hold them down enough to get the Lightning through the series with the Washington Capitals. It certainly didn’t help that a couple of bad losses started the series. It also didn’t help when the offense dried up in the last couple games.
For this coming season, I expect we’ll see a lot of the same for Point. He has one year remaining on his entry level contract and remains cheap for an elite second line center. He’s getting to that point in his career where he is just entering his prime years and he likely still has more to offer offensively. He reached 32 goals and 66 points this past season, and I don’t anticipate his goal scoring to go up much from there. It could even possibly regress back to around 25 goals. But I expect his assists to take a tick upward, and the possibility of him breaking the 70 point plateau is certainly within reach for him.
Something else to watch for this season is that he could get some more hype for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward, and for the Lady Byng trophy. He got a lot of attention during the playoffs for how he handled Hall and Bergeron’s lines, and that attention will likely carry over into this season as the media pays more attention to him. Even without a lot of hype during the season, he finished 8th in the Selke voting this year.
He also doesn’t take a lot of penalties, and if he can reduce his penalty minutes down into the single digits, he’ll certainly be a player that can be in the conversation for the Lady Byng. This would be very similar to another diminutive Lightning forward that was just elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.