Top 25 Under 25: #16 Cédric Paquette looks to stay healthy for an entire season this year

Ceddy has missed 50 regular season games in the last two seasons combined.

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 1, 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.

Cedric Paquette was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 4th round (101st overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. After going undrafted in 2011, Paquette only had to play one more year of juniors for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL before he was eligible to turn pro. He did so in the 2013-14 season, playing for the Syracuse Crunch.

In the year in which he was drafted, Paquette put up 31 goals and 17 assists for 48 points in 63 games. He then added to his point total the following year with 27 goals and 56 assists for 83 points in the same amount of games.

In his first pro season with the Crunch, Paquette notched 20 goals and added 24 assists for 44 points in 70 games—not bad for a rookie. The following year he played the majority of the season with the Lightning, putting up 12 goals and 7 assists for 19 points in his 64-game rookie season with the Bolts.

He was teamed up with J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan on the third line for the majority of the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 against the Chicago Blackhawks. He was tasked with checking the top lines of the Lightning’s opponents, of which he did a most marvelous job against Jonathan Toews and his line mates especially. Going back to his own roots, Paquette frequently reverted to verbal sneers and jabs in French.

At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Paquette was a restricted free agent. He agreed to a two-year, one-way deal worth $812,500 per season. However, in the past two years, Paquette has been hit by the injury bug in a big way, limiting his time on the ice to only 56 and 58 games per season, respectively.

In this being another contract year, I’d expect Paquette to have a really good season. When he’s on top of his game, he’s an agitator who can chip in on the scoresheet from time to time. His best assets are his penalty killing and ability to get under the skin of the opposition. If he can stay healthy for a full year, he just might be able to crack 20 points in the NHL for the first time in his career.

In my opinion, this is a make it or break it year for Ceddy. The Lightning has an  influx of prospects joining the pro ranks, especially at the center position. Paquette, as an asset to this organization, is more replaceable than ever before. There is no real agitating center prospect close to breaking into the NHL, but those that are centers, such as Anthony Cirelli, would provide much more skill to the lineup than Paquette has to offer.

I’d imagine that Paquette would anchor the fourth line this year, but there will be stiff competition for that spot between Cirelli, Matthew Peca, and Gabriel Dumont. I love cheering for Ceddy, as he’s a great guy to root for, but it is crucial that he stay healthy if he’d like to maintain a spot in this organization moving forward.