Tampa Bay Lightning 2019 Top 25 Under 25 #1: Brayden Point reigns supreme

He remains unsigned, but Point is already one of the best centers in the NHL.

We’ve made it, folks. Everyone knew who would be at number one—his production and impact for the Tampa Bay Lightning spoke for itself this season. Regardless, I have to introduce him, so, here is Brayden Point, the top ranked player by Raw Charge and its readers inside the Lightning organization under 25 years old.

We’ll get this formality out of the way first. Point swept the field with the amount of votes he received for the top spot, and this one really can’t be argued. He’s been fantastic since breaking onto the Lightning roster back in 2016. For the writers, Point was unanimously chosen as the consensus top player, the only one too. The readers nearly felt the same way, though, obviously, there are some minor dissenters on the fringes.

The Voting

The Numbers

After scoring 40 and 66 points during his first two seasons, Point exploded this year with a 92 point campaign that positioned him as one of the best young centers in the NHL. Point’s impact was noticeable from the moment he joined the NHL roster. First, he buoyed Valtteri Filppula (and the team) during his rookie season that saw a litany of injuries handicap the Lightning, then he anchored a second line that dominated the opposition during his sophomore campaign, and this season he teamed up with Nikita Kucherov to make one of the most productive lines in the NHL. Not bad for a third round pick.

According to Natural Stat Trick, while on the ice Point controlled 52% of the shot attempts at 5v5 (sixth on the team), generated an xGF% of 53% (seventh), and controlled 52% of the high danger chances (eighth). If we dive a little deeper using Evolving-Hockey’s model, Point generated a team high (third highest in the NHL) 21.8 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and was worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which was also a team high (third highest in the NHL).

Interestingly, if we take a look at Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM metric, Point still grades out fantastically, but there is one downward mark that is a bit of a surprise.

His defensive xG is surprisingly low given how well his defensive shot attempts against is, and how strong his offensive production was at 5v5. In his two previous seasons, Point never graded negatively in this metric. Some might suggest this is due to playing against top line competition, but he didn’t see much of a change from last season (one of the highest on the team) in that regard. He was paired with Kucherov for a large portion of the season, who also graded out negatively on the defensive aspect in Evolving-Hockey’s model, but their offensive contributions greatly outweighed all of that. This is without even taking into account his massive impact on the power-play.

Point was positioned into the slot during the man advantage and he feasted on teams there. With Kucherov quarterbacking the power-play from the right wing and Steven Stamkos firing a barrage of one-timers from the left, teams had to pick their poison on the outside. However, whenever teams did over commit to the outside, Point was there to capitalize on it in the interior.

If we take a look at his isolated impact from Hockey-Viz (and compare it to Kucherov), Point still grades out quite well, but it’s clear that Kucherov was the primary driving force on offense.

This should be a helpful reminder at how absurd Kucherov is at driving offensive play.

Now, there are two caveats to Point’s explosive season—shooting percentage and power-play points. Point’s first two seasons saw him shoot 14%, which is still good but not even close to the absurd 21% he shot last season. Interestingly, Point also shot less than in 2017-2018—217 to 191. Now, this is heavily driven by his power-play production. Point’s shooting percentage at 5v5 did increase from the previous season (9.94% to 10.75%), but his power-play shooting percentage took off—from 14.94% to 24.90%. This is due to usage on the power-play from year to year.

His power-play production was 38% of point total this season. Removing his power-play contribution leaves him at 57 points at 5v5. This is an increase on 2017-2018 where he scored 50 5v5 points (11 PP, 5 SH). So, if he sees the same kind of deployment on the man advantage as he did in 2018-2019, and capitalizes on it, then he’ll have another great season.

However, I’d be comfortable saying that there should be some kind of regression compared to the output Point generated in 2018-2019. If Tampa Bay isn’t going to alter their power-play scheme moving forward (they shouldn’t), then it’s entirely possible for Point to generate another comparable season. I don’t know if another 92-point season is in the works, but Point should still be a 70+ point player moving forward.

Now, watch Point score 100 just to blow this entire thought process out of the water.

The Future

At 23 years old, Point is one of the best young centers in the NHL, and arguably the best center on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Personally, I’d say Tampa Bay has a 1A and a 1B, but that’s a discussion for another time. Regardless, Point’s future looks extremely bright, especially if general manager Julien BriseBois is able to lock him in at a reasonable contract.

Given that Point is still unsigned, there is some sense of worry as camp approaches later this month. We’ve been given very little to go on from the Lightning organization on how talks are progressing, but Tampa Bay is notoriously tight lipped on these situations. The one constant is BriseBois stating he plans to have Point signed before the start of the season. Remember, Kucherov wasn’t signed to his bridge deal until right before that season started.

So, until he’s re-signed, we wait and see. Point is a part of a RFA class of players that are looking to shift the dynamic of the NHL’s contracts. Auston Matthews’ contract altered the way players and front offices will hand out contracts after ELC’s are done. Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation is tenuous, but not impossible to navigate. Hopefully, we’ll see a contract signed within the next month, because starting the season without Point wouldn’t be ideal.

The Fun

You know, I’m just going to throw this compilation of all 41 goals Point scored this season. Why? Because I can, and I know you all want to see it.