Blue Jackets center Antoine Vermette hasn't always been considered a top point scorer for his respective team, but with 14 games remaining in the season he ranks second on the Blue Jackets in scoring and trails team leader Rick Nash by only five points.
For Vermette, it hasn't been an easy road to this point, but through patience and experience, the team's alternate captain is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players in Columbus.
Vermette enters Saturday's game with 21 goals and 31 assists for a total of 52 points. While he has already topped his previous career assist mark of 29, he is just three goals and one point shy of topping his other career bests. Acquired from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Pascal Leclaire and a second round pick last March, Vermette says that his growth is all a result of opportunity and experience.
"If you look back on my career, there's a lot more responsibility and quality of ice time here than I had in Ottawa," Vermette said. "I've tried to pick up what other guys do along the way and tried to understand how you can read the play better. That's one thing you learn through the years, and I think that has a lot to do with patience, composure and control factors as well.
Patience was the key for Vermette as he spent five seasons in Ottawa before being traded to the Jackets down the stretch late last season. With the Senators, Vermette often played limited minutes and sometimes out of position. It was during this time he says he learned valuable lessons about the game through patience, which have made all the difference this year.
"As you go you get more experience, you manage your emotions better," Vermette said. "There's that closure factor, which brings confidence and helps you play under control with and without the puck. You begin to trust your play, you trust your game, and you trust your instincts.
Sometimes what's harder when you're young is that you're very enthusiastic out there. You try to provoke things, maybe you're trying too much to make things happen and you get out of position or you chase a little more than you probably should. You gain (patience) through experience. You go through different stretches and different situations."
In 83 games since coming to Columbus last March, Vermette has scored 28 goals and registered 37 assists for 65 points, making him one of the most valuable acquisitions in recent years for the club. While his production on the ice has helped the Jackets tremendously, the 27-year-old has also provided a strong leadership to a young team. This leadership helped Vermette earn the alternate captain title halfway through this season.
"He's obviously been great since we got him here," said right wing Jared Boll. "He's a real team player that comes everyday, works really hard and leads by example."
Vermette says that the opportunity to come to Columbus last season was one that excited him. He felt he could be a strong contributor for a young talented team making a playoff push, and he felt it could be a chance to take his game to the next level.
"Personally I knew it was going to be a good opportunity for me to become one of the more experienced guys," he said. "I'm playing center which is my natural position, I have a lot of confidence from the organization, which shows in my game, and I feel much better out there. I think it's all adding up. I'm also getting to play with some great players, which has helped me."
For Vermette finishing second on the team in scoring is less important than winning. He says that while it's a great feat to be so close to Nash in points, he’s not the type of player who pays attention to his numbers.
"I'm not a guy who looks at my stats, (Nash) is a really amazing and unique player and to be even close to him is amazing," he said. "At the end of the day though, all that matters is you put yourself in a winning situation. I think we have a good chance of doing that here in Columbus."