Tyler Motte is about to get another opportunity to make a good impression in the NHL, only this time with a new team.
Motte, who was recalled from the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League on Monday, has been looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets since June 23. That was the day he was traded to Columbus from the Chicago Blackhawks in the same blockbuster deal that made Artemi Panarin a Blue Jacket.
"It's exciting," said Motte, 22, who has seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games with the Monsters, including a hat trick Saturday against Ontario. "I had some success down there, found my game, and since training camp I think I've evolved as a player. I've learned a lot, and I'm hoping to come in at any point in time I get the nod, and just be able to help the team in any way I can."
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Motte will immediately draw into lineup against the Boston Bruins at Nationwide Arena on Monday (7 p.m., FS-O, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM). As for the rest of his lineup, Tortorella was less sure - especially given a potential injury situation with forward Cam Atkinson.
In the Jackets' last game, a 4-1 road loss Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, Atkinson was unable to finish the game. He left the bench late in the second period, briefly returned and played just two shifts in the third period.
The Blue Jackets didn't practice Sunday and held an optional morning skate Monday, in which Atkinson got on the ice for a while before leaving early. His status is unknown until game time.
Motte, however, is certain to make his Blue Jackets debut. He was also on the ice Monday morning in Columbus, and hopes to make the kind of impression that will help him stick around.
"I think every step along the way for any new player is going to be a challenge," said Motte, who was one of Tortorella's last cuts prior to the season. "You've got to be able to embrace that. Not everything's going to go your way all the time, but when you do get opportunities, it's up to you to make the most of it."
Tortorella couldn't agree more. Motte's ability to rebound with a hot start in Cleveland, after the disappointment of being cut from Blue Jackets camp, was the expectation.
"To me, it's nothing special," Tortorella said. "You have to do that. That's the world you're in, so I don't think it's something great. If you don't handle it that way, you're not going to play. I looked at [Motte], I thought he had a really good camp. [He was] OK in some of the exhibition games. When we sent him down, I looked at his face and just the human being in me, I felt terrible for him, because I saw him, [and] you could just tell. But you know what, after about 15 minutes, I'm thinking about another lineup, and he needs to go down there and play."
Motte did exactly what he needed to do. He not only led Cleveland in goals, points and shots (29), he also began to play the way the Blue Jackets front office wanted to see from him. He started utilizing his under-rated speed and skill without sacrificing defensive responsibilities.
"The goals were a product of how he played," said Bill Zito, Blue Jackets assistant general manager and general manager of the Monsters. "I think this weekend was a great display of [his] hunger, where he played hockey the right way. All the little things that go into competing to win a hockey game, he was doing … diving for loose pucks, tracking back hard, chipping pucks in when necessary, skating them in when necessary. He just played a complete game as a hockey player."
Motte was drafted by Chicago in 2013 (No.121, fourth round) and played three seasons at the University of Michigan. He had 105 points (50 goals, 55 assists) in 107 career games for the Wolverines, including a big junior season. He finished second in the NCAA in goals (32) and fourth in points (56) as a junior, and then signed with the Blackhawks.
Motte made Chicago's roster out of training camp last year, and had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 33 games for the Blackhawks. He finished the year in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.
The day he was traded to Columbus, Motte was headed back to Chicago for a sponsor event connected with the NHL Draft. About 90 minutes before boarding the plane, he found out that he was a Blue Jacket.
The trade featured Panarin and former Blue Jackets power forward Brandon Saad, who was sent back to Chicago, but it also included goalie Anton Forsberg and a draft pick going to the Blackhawks and Motte plus a pick coming to Columbus.
I enjoyed my time in Chicago and with the Blackhawks organization, but at the same time, you've got to be excited about a new opportunity and a new organization," Motte said. It's mixed emotions, being drafted by a team and [you get] your first taste of it, but at the same time, you can kind of see a long-term picture as well [here]."