Well, I didn’t think Taylor Raddysh was getting any bigger after junior hockey, but he showed up at training camp last season a full inch taller and about ten pounds heavier, so who knows how much more he’s grown this summer. Raddysh, who is one of the bigger prospects in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s organization, is coming off a very solid first season of professional hockey and is ranked 6th on our T25 rankings for the second straight year.
For the most part, the Raw Charge staff seemed to be pretty high on Raddysh (although our two Syracuse experts in Alex and Justin had him 12th and 13th, respectively). Our readers were rather all over the place, with Raddysh being ranked as high as second and as low as 25th. Although Raddysh’s AHL rookie season was encouraging, there is still some debate as to when he’ll be able to make the leap to the NHL, and what kind of role he’ll be able to fill once he’s up there.
When Raddysh arrived in Syracuse at the start of the 2018-19 season, the biggest question was what he might struggle with as he made the jump to the AHL. Would it be his skating, which was admittedly still a weakness of Raddysh’s game after four OHL seasons? Or would it be trying to produce offense with a smaller role and less ice time?
Raddysh amassed 120 goals and nearly 300 points during his OHL career. The majority of his goals and shots taken in his final year of junior hockey came from those tight areas around the net:
Raddysh has always been a threat in the slot and around the net, and uses his frame and awareness to catch defenders out of position and beat them to loose pucks in the crease. Raddysh has an NHL-ready, elite-releasing wrist shot, and that, along with his hockey intelligence, helped him make a slightly more smooth transition to the AHL.
Last season, Raddysh played predominantly on the third line with Andy Andreoff and Ross Colton. He got his first AHL goal out of the way extremely quickly, scoring in the Crunch’s first regular season game last season:
The goal is at 2:12 of the video. As Andreoff goes to the net and Colton fires the puck on Bears goalie Ilya Samsonov, Raddysh recognizes that Hershey’s defenders are preoccupied with Andreoff in the crease and backs away to open himself up. With the Bears defenders caught puck-watching and Raddysh all alone, he takes the pass from Andreoff and fires it into the open net.
Raddysh assumed a similar powerplay role with the Crunch as he had in junior, acting as the team’s net-front presence. He became a dangerous offensive threat there, and he occasionally set up teammates from below the goal line, as well. By the end of the season, Raddysh looked extremely comfortable in the AHL. He had a five-assist game in December and went on a seven-game point streak in March. Although he went pointless in the playoffs as Syracuse was swept by Cleveland, Raddysh still had a very positive rookie season.
Regardless of where Raddysh starts next season, there are still facets of his game that need rounding out. Although his skating looked a lot stronger last season and he wasn’t easily forced off pucks, Raddysh’s speed is still only average. He still lacks the explosiveness and acceleration that would make him a consistent, elite offensive producer in the NHL (although he’ll probably still be an effective depth option).
Skating aside, the next step Raddysh has to take is to drive offense at the AHL level. He’ll probably be given a larger role in Syracuse this season, and it would be great to see him produce off the rush and not just contribute offense from around the net off tip-ins and banging in rebounds. It’s not a stretch to say that he could have the kind of season that Alex Barre-Boulet had last year. Raddysh has the potential to reach that level of offensive production and lead the Crunch in scoring. Improvements to his skating would help tremendously.
Because the Lightning’s forward depth remains strong, Raddysh will likely start the season in Syracuse. Then again, Raddysh could have a lights-out performance at training camp and during preseason, and force management’s hand. At the very least, Adam Erne’s departure opens up the door for one of Raddysh, Barre-Boulet, Carter Verhaeghe, Alex Volkov, or Mitchell Stephens to join Tampa Bay this season. Of that group, Raddysh is probably one of the longer shots, but anything is possible.
Still, it’s probably better for his development that Raddysh return to the Crunch, work on his skating, and continue to blossom offensively there. However, he’s probably near the top of the list as far as call-ups are concerned, and if the Lightning happen to be hit with the injury bug, we could very well see Raddysh don a Bolts jersey at some point this season.
All statistics from Elite Prospects and Pick224.com.