Tyler Johnson, recipient of this year's Les Cunningham Award for the AHL's most valuable player, got a taste of what it was like to be an NHL player this year for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Johnson's dream come true came on March 14, 2013 when the Lightning recalled him from Syracuse.
"It was a dream come true," the Spokane, Wa. native said. "It was something that I will definitely remember."
In the 14 games Johnson played in for the Lightning he didn't just go out there to fill a roster spot and play spotty minutes. He averaged just over 13 minutes of ice-time, adding three goals and six points.
"The time in Tampa was invaluable and awesome," Johnson said. "I just wanted to make the best of out the situation and learn as much as possible from all the guys."
Something else that was special to Johnson was that he was experiencing the same thing as a number of his Crunch teammates who were also called up to the big league.
"It was awesome having some of the guys up there and it the familiarity made the transition a little bit easier."
It had to have been pretty awesome playing for Jon Cooper, who Johnson had played for in the AHL since 2011, as well.
"It was cool having Coach Cooper up there too," Johnson stated. "It was really special because both of us were experiencing the learning curve associated with the NHL and he was the same guy I learned from at the AHL level as well. We have been through a lot together, even the other Syracuse guys, so that was pretty special."
That success and feeling has the AHL's goal-scoring champion wanting more. Johnson understands that this offseason will be very important for him with regards of making himself a mainstay with the big club in Tampa.
"I am going to do everything I possibly can to come back ready for camp and make the team," Johnson said. "I am going to try and give myself as much of an advantage as possible this offseason."
Johnson is excited about the offseason and ready to get back to work with the trainer he began working with last summer.
"I started a program with a new trainer last summer and really like what happened," an eager Johnson explained. "I was able to gain about 10 pounds in muscle last summer and that was something I have never been able to, so hopefully I will be able to continue to grow and get stronger this summer as well."
Johnson also mentioned a new rink was built in Spokane that he cannot wait to skate at.
"I am excited about the new rink in my hometown. I will be able to skate there and spend a lot of time there working on my game."
Johnson's game and skill set has never been a problem, his size has raised the most questions about his ability to be an NHL player.
Johnson, who is listed at a generous 5'9, went undrafted solely because of his size; much like Lightning star Martin St. Louis. The Lightning took a chance on the undersized forward, signing him to a three-year entry level contract in 2011.
Furthermore, Johnson has won at every level. He did it in the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Chiefs and went on to win the Memorial Cup as well. With the one-time Lightning affiliate Norfolk Admirals, Johnson helped win the Calder Cup too.
Winning is contagious so the Lightning hope Johnson can contribute next season at the NHL level and help the Lightning chase their second Stanley Cup title.