Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Johnson Is Quietly Making His Mark

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Johnson Is Quietly Making His Mark

Article excerpt

Take one look at Tyler Johnson and you'd think he might not be much for the game.

Not so fast. You would not be able to keep up.

The second-year center for the Tampa Bay Lightning is making people in the National Hockey League take notice.

You'd expect Steven Stamkos to be the top point producer on a Lightning team that sits near the top of the Atlantic Division as Tampa Bay's season hits the halfway mark.

But it's not that 24-year-old center, taken first overall in the 2008 Entry Draft. It's the other 24-year-old center in Johnson, a native of Spokane, Washington. At 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, that size can be a detractor when you're scouted.

"I always say bigger players play their way off teams and smaller players play their way on teams," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "If you're small, you need a trait. And he's got a lot of them.

"He can skate like the wind, he's got a nose for the net, and he's not afraid to learn. Those are the guys you want on your team. You have to find the special ones, and we're lucky to have him."

Johnson is an undrafted player who is flourishing with Tampa Bay - - skaters his size generally don't get selected early. Aside from the 43 points, he has a league-best plus-26 rating. (Stamkos does own the team lead in goals. His 21st came in Sunday's win at Ottawa as Johnson netted two goals.)

The Bolts had a player like that in Martin St. Louis. We know how that turned out just by looking at the Stanley Cup banner inside Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Johnson has had just two coaches in his professional career. He had Guy Boucher briefly in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

But for the most part, he's had Cooper -- from the days at Norfolk and Syracuse, as part of the Tampa Bay farm system, to today with the Lightning.

Johnson was not signed by any NHL team until the Bolts did so in March 2011.

"I've never had to prove myself," Johnson said. "I've always been confident and thought I could play. As I'd like to think, play well and help everyone out. …

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