There isn’t much left to be said about Brayden Point. Ever since his debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the start of the 2017-2018 season, he’s been a force to be reckoned with. His arrival led to the departure of Valtteri Filppula and eventually the supplanting of Steven Stamkos as the team’s number one center, all in a span of two and a half years.
He has gone from an undersized third-round pick to a bona fide star and anchor for one of the NHL's best teams. From a wide-eyed rookie to a grizzled veteran in only four years. From a promising prospect to a core piece of a Stanley Cup championship roster.
And he is only 24 years old.
This, in turn, means Point’s inclusion on this list ends after this year. In a way, it’s sad but also fitting. Point leaves the Top 25 Under 25 list as the top player for the second consecutive season in the Lightning organization, as well as a Stanley Cup Champion.
It comes as no surprise that Point retained his title from last season (though someone voted him second, which gives me pause, but that’s neither here nor there). However, diving into how dynamic and impactful Point is for Tampa Bay is redundant. Here at Raw Charge, we’ve dived into the numbers and video numerous times to represent how fantastic he is on the ice. Thus, I feel we should sit back, relax, and enjoy his best goals from the Return to Play en route to Tampa Bay’s second Stanley Cup championship.
Because, why not?
The importance of this goal cannot be understated. The Columbus Blue Jackets were Tampa Bay’s boogeyman thanks to last season’s embarrassing sweep, but the Lightning never backed away during this game. They never stopped attacking, they persevered, and that was apparent throughout Game 1 of this first-round matchup. Tampa Bay controlled 63% of the shot attempts during the game, held an xGF edge of 66%, and more than doubled the Blue Jackets' high danger chances. Yet, the game was tied through five overtimes due to the herculean effort from Joonas Korpisalo (who had just led the upstart Blue Jackets to an upset over the favored Toronto Maple Leafs during the play-in round). This goal helped plant the idea that Tampa Bay wasn’t going to succumb to last season's failures.
And succumb they didn’t as the Lightning never allowed Columbus to feel comfortable throughout the series, eliminating them on Point’s fourth goal of the series in just five games. The redemption tour officially kicked off after this series win.
After only registering one goal (in a blowout game three) during their five-game series win over the rival Boston Bruins, Point made his presence known immediately during the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Islanders. The way he managed to catch Ryan Pulock (a damn good defenseman) flat-footed with a stutter move just inside the blue line is a beautiful thing to watch. Point’s establishment of the pace and tone within the first two minutes of the series sent a message to the Islanders that this wasn’t going to be like their previous series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
After dropping game one of the Stanley Cup Final to the Dallas Stars and only scoring one goal in the process, it was paramount for Tampa Bay to get on the board early to pressure the Stars. Thanks to some good puck movement from Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov, Point found a soft spot in Dallas’ penalty kill coverage and punished them for giving him too much space. This goal helped propel the Lightning toward a 3-0 lead before holding off a Stars comeback to tie the series at one.
It was hard to choose out of his two goals in Game 4 to put here, but I ended up choosing his first one in the waning seconds of the first period. With Tampa Bay trailing by two goals and trying to establish a pathway to come back, there was Point, yet again, to open the floodgates for the Lightning. As beautiful and important as this goal is, the real gem is Ondrej Palat’s pass from the neutral zone. I cannot get over how fantastic it is; it’s one of those passes that makes you sit there and go, “my god, that was pretty.”
The goal that cemented Point’s status in Lightning lore forever. The goal that set a new franchise record for goals in a single playoff. The goal that won the Stanley Cup. It might not be his most memorable goal of the postseason (one of the OT goals against Columbus will likely bear that honor), but this goal quite literally won the 2020 Stanley Cup. Thanks to a stalwart effort by Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tampa Bay as a whole, this power-play goal halfway through the first period was all the Lightning needed to secure their second Stanley Cup in franchise history (though, we will, of course, take Blake Coleman’s insurance goal in the second period as a bonus).
All hail Brayden Point.