Tom Pyatt knows his place with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But that doesn't mean he wants to stop improving his game.
The 26-year-old, set to enter his third season with the star-studded NHL team, knows with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and recent draft pick Jonathan Drouin he’s never going to be a go-to-guy on offence.
At 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, the Thunder Bay native won’t be asked to be a fourth-line banger or to drop the gloves and protect his teammates.
But Pyatt is showing steady improvement at the NHL level as he hits Year 5 of his career, coming off an eight-goal, eight-assist performance in just 43 games in a strike-shortened season that saw the Lightning miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
“It was definitely a good year for me,” Pyatt said earlier this week, after taking to the Fort William First Nations ice with several other local-area NHLers, a warm-up for next month, when big-league training camps open across North America.
“I had to wait until January, so it was kind of up and down with those negotiations and kind of a roller coaster. But it was nice when everything got started and I had a pretty good year. But as a team we struggled a little bit. But we’ve got some depth up front and we’re looking good for next year.”
He knows versatility is the key to his survival at the NHL level.
Pyatt, who scored a career-high 12 goals in 2011-12, has just 24 in 218 NHL games in a career that has seen him drafted by the New York Rangers in 2005, traded to Montreal in 2009 and sign as a free agent in Tampa Bay prior to the 2011 campaign.
He said he wants to work on improving his offensive game, knowing his defensive game is in place.
“I always want to improve my numbers and put more pucks in the net. That’s where all the fun is in hockey, getting the puck in the net,” he said, adding the confidence that he belongs at the NHL level for good has finally arrived. It was something he didn’t have his first season or two in the league.
“I feel like I’m a player that can play in different positions and in different roles. Looking at the roster this year, we’re really deep up front. It’s going to be a challenge for me to go in there and get a spot again. I don’ t know what my role is going to be, but I’m feeling good right now and looking to go there and improve myself.”
Hockey is a team game, and Pyatt is nothing if not a team players. Missing t he post-season simply isn’t acceptable, with so much talent abounding on the Lightning roster.
Ensuring it doesn’t happen again starts in the defensive end, he said.
“We let in too many goals against. We might put up four or five goals in the net, but we gave up too much. But we’re looking good in net for next year. We got big goalie Ben Bishop from Ottawa. He looks good,” Pyatt said.
“Things are looking bright for us.”
He’s excited to see what Drouin, who helped the Halifax Mooseheads capture their first Memorial Cup title this past spring, can do at the NHL level, though doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the 18-year-old.
“I haven’t seen too much of him, but from what I hear, he seems like a special player and very talented. He’s a guy you build teams around, I guess. I don’t know if he’ll be there this year, but he’s a talented player and it’s a good chance he’ll be in the starting line-up.”
Pyatt, who’ll earn $600,000 this season, will be an unrestricted free agent next July.
Click here to report a typo or error
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Remember me next time.