The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this morning that they signed undrafted free agent Jimmy Huntingon from Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Lightning are likely familar with him as he’s played all year with fellow Tampa prospect Radim Salda. Huntington was an undrafted free agent who has 83 points in 60 games this season for Rimouski including 38 goals. The 83 points is a career high following 58 points in his previous season with the Victoriaville Tigres.
The overage forward is in his final junior season, and currently sits sixth in QMJHL scoring, and second on the Oceanic behind 2020 top prospect Alex Lafrenière.
The Lightning’s previous CHL free agent signing was Alex Barré-Boulet, who currently has 26 goals, 22 assists, for 48 points in 54 games with the Syracuse Crunch. He’s made an excellent transition from juniors to the pros, hopefully this will also apply to Huntington.
The Oceanic are currently sitting third in the QMJHL Western Conference,and we will have plenty of time to watch Huntington over the final two weeks of the junior season and through the playoffs.
The Lightning are especially deep at forward so Huntington will have a steep climb if he wants to make it to the NHL. More likely, he’ll be quality AHL depth with an outside chance to be something more.
As we’ve discussed in the past here, with the Lightning being one of the better teams in the league, they have less draft capital every summer. Both because they’ve traded picks to acquire current roster players and because they pick low in rounds. Finding players to add to their prospect pool outside of the draft is key to keeping their pipeline stocked and giving them more chances to land a player who turns out to be a winning lottery ticket.
Players like Huntington are never likely to be major NHL contributors. But they do keep young talent entering into the organization and for a team that will find itself short of picks at the draft again this summer, that’s important. Much like Barré-Boulet last year, expect to see Huntington in prospect camp this summer and then in the AHL in Syracuse next year where he’ll join one of the deeper forward groups in the AHL. If he can’t make the team there, he could spend some time in Orlando in the ECHL as well.
The Lightning have done well in the past with undrafted free agents. They’ve dipped back into that pool again to sign Huntington. And with so little risk involved, it will be fun to see how he develops over the next few years.