From Thunder Bay to Tampa Bay, Tom Pyatt is on the move for a second time in his NHL career.
And the 24-year-old couldn’t be happier.
Pyatt, who spent the past two seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, inked a one-year, $525,000 contract to play with the Tampa Bay Lightning next season, and says the Eastern Conference finalists and coach Guy Boucher are a great fit for this next leg of his hockey career.
“I know the coach there pretty good,” said Pyatt, trying his hand at golf on Tuesday afternoon at Whitewater, one of the celebrities taking part in the Freedom 55 Financial Thunder Bay Hockey Celebrity Golf Classic in support of the Northern Cancer Fund.
“He coached me in Hamilton in the minors, so at least I’m familiar with something there and I’m really looking forward to going down there.”
Knowing the team – assuming it can sign restricted free agent Steven Stamkos to a deal – is a piece or two away from being a Stanley Cup contender, much like Montreal has been the past couple of seasons, also aided in his decision.
“They’re a great hockey club and I think I fit their system really well,” Pyatt said. “They’re a very fast team and they play very intense hockey and I know how the coach is and how he wants to play. I think I fit them pretty good.”
A 40-goal scorer in his final season of junior, the 5-foot-11 centre hasn’t been known for his offensive prowess in the National Hockey League.
He tallied just two goals in each of his first two seasons, and only has 12 points in 101 career games. Pyatt said he’d like to see those numbers start to get better.
“My offensive game is something I want to improve on. I got into the league by being a good defensive player, but I don’t want to be like that my whole career. I want to become a good two-year player in the league. It will take some time for me, but it’s my big goal, for sure.”
Another thing he might want to consider working on this summer is his fighting skills. A small guy by NHL standards, Pyatt experienced his first big league fight in February, taking on Boston’s Greg Campbell in a game the eventual Cup champion Bruins won 8-6.
Pyatt landed the first couple of blows, but then Campbell, the son of former NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, dropped about 15 left-handed shots in a row until the officials broke up the fight and led a bloody Pyatt away.
“That guy was more of a fighter than me. It was toward the end of the game and the score got a little out of hand and everyone’s emotions were all over the place. But things like that happen and I guess I’ll take some lessons this summer,” Pyatt said.
He’ll also have to learn how to play hockey in perpetual summer weather, where hockey is lost in football fever for much of the first half of the season.
He’s going from a hockey hotbed in Montreal, where a player’s every move on and off the ice is fodder for the media, to western Florida, where he’ll likely be able to wander through the streets unmolested by fans.
It will take some getting used to, Pyatt said.
“It’s definitely a huge change, when you go from a place like Montreal right to Florida. The climate’s a huge difference. It’s going to be a big change for me, but I’m really looking forward to it and I’m excited about it.”