Top 25 Under 25: #3 Brayden Point produced...points for the Tampa Bay Lightning

With comparisons to Tyler Johnson, Point has shown that he has the ability to succeed.

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge writing staff. Four writers, plus a special guest, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1st, 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.

Feel free to make your own ranking over here!

Brayden Point became the first AHL-eligible rookie to make the Tampa Bay Lightning out of training camp in the Steve Yzerman era. Although Brett Connolly and Jonathan Drouin both made the team before spending any time in the AHL, neither were eligible for the AHL before doing so. Point was the first.

It’s a testament to how much work Point put into his game over the two years following the 2014 NHL Entry Draft when he was selected in the third round, 79th overall. To guarantee the pick, Yzerman even traded a seventh-rounder to the Minnesota Wild to move up a spot.

Point was drafted from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL as an undersized center with tremendous offensive skills. He had great speed, offensive instincts, defensive awareness, and a high compete level. While he had speed, the other aspects of his skating needed work to get him to the NHL. He worked with renowned skating consultant Barb Underhill on ankle flexibility to help with maneuvering in tight spaces.

Point’s work ethic and improved skating, and the continued development of his defensive skills, led to Point making the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2016-17 season. Throughout the year, he was given opportunities on the power play and was even asked to defend leads late especially in the second half of the year. Much like Tyler Johnson, whom Point has been compared to (ad nauseum), Point has earned Jon Cooper’s trust in the defensive end.

2016-17 Season Performance

Point started off the season slowly, which isn’t unexpected for a rookie pro adjusting from junior hockey to the NHL. He record his first career assist in the second game of the game at home against the New Jersey Devils. He had the secondary assist on Valtteri Filppula’s game winning goal in the third period.

Point’s first goal came in the 12th game of the season at home, also against the New Jersey Devils. The goal came in the third period on the power play. Brian Boyle won the faceoff to the right of the goalie. The puck trickled towards the slot and Nikita Kucherov came in from the right point to take a slapshot. Moving off the faceoff and towards the goal, Point got his stick on the puck and deflected it into the net for his first goal. Check out the video below to see the goal.

Over his first 17 games, Point only managed one goal and four assists. He broke out in the 18th game with a goal and an assist that started a 19 game span where he scored two goals and eight assists for 10 points. He also had two two-point games during that span. That put him at 0.42 points per game over the first 36 games. An injury forced him to miss a month of playing time.

Point returned to action at the very end of January and did so with a bang. He scored a goal a piece in his first two games back. That started a stretch of 11 games where he scored six goals and had nine points. He hit a small six-game skid before breaking it with his first career two-goal game. He would go on to add two more two-goal games before the end of the season and his first career three-point game in the final game of the season.

Over his final 32 games of the season, Point had 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points. That put him at a 0.78 point per game scoring pace. Overall for the season, he scored 0.59 points per game. A very respectable performance for a rookie.

Before the Lightning

Prior to making the Lightning roster, Point played in 252 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors scoring 134 goals, 190 assists, and 324 points for 1.29 points per game. He also had 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 24 playoff games. He spent his last two seasons with Moose Jaw as a Captain after serving as an Alternate Captain for a season.

In international play, Point has represented Team Canada on six different occasions. In 2012-13, he had five points in five games for Canada Pacific U17 in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and was an Alternate Captain. In 2013-14 he had four points in five games in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament. That year he also had two assists in four games at the World Under-18 Junior Challenge winning a Bronze Medal and serving as an Alternate Captain.

In 2014-15, Point made Team Canada’s U20 World Junior Championship team as the 13th forward. Following injuries to players in front of him, Point moved up in the line up and ended up contributing two goals and two assists in seven games and winning a Gold Medal. He made the team again in 2015-16 and served as Captain of Team Canada. He contributed a goal and five points in five games, but Canada fell short and did not medal in the tournament. In 2016-17, Point joined Team Canada for the World Championships. He scored four goals and five points in ten games on the way to winning a Silver Medal.

What’s Next for Point?

Point will without question be making the Tampa Bay Lightning roster to start the season, barring an injury. With the departure of Jonathan Drouin, the retention of Yanni Gourde and Cory Conacher, and the addition of Chris Kunitz, there’s a lack of clarity on how the lines will shake out.

Point is a natural center, but showed last year that he is more than capable of contributing as a right winger. Right wing is also a position where the Lightning are a bit weak. If you don’t include Point in the right wing depth chart, after Nikita Kucherov it goes to Gourde, Ryan Callahan, and J.T. Brown. While Gourde showed that he’s got something to contribute, expecting him to put up 40+ points and be a legitimate second liner is a bit much to ask of him.

Point would represent a much larger upside as the second line right winger over being the third line center with Gourde on the second line. If he is on the second line and paired up with capable offensive partners, expecting 50 to 60 points is a very reasonable projection. If the power play continues on it’s upward trajectory from last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him break 30 goals either.

While I’m typically someone that preaches caution and being conservative with projections of young players with small track records, Point has all the tools to perform.