Knee injuries forced Finnish forward Jonne Tammela to miss Lightning development camp in 2017 and robbed him of nearly a year and a half of action on the ice.
But while the time away from the game might have temporarily derailed his growth as a prospect, it also gave Tammela a new perspective on hockey and, well, life.
"I learned to appreciate what you have," Tammela said. "This job is a dream job for me, and it can be taken in one split second. When you're out that long and constantly in the stands watching the game and other guys play, you know you're really far from that point. It made me appreciate what I have and look at things from a different perspective. Now I feel more motivated than ever. I got strength from that. Even though it was a tough go and I'd rather not go through that, it made me stronger mentally."
No longer a spectator, Tammela was a standout at Tampa Bay's development camp this week, which concluded Saturday with the final games of the 3-on-3 tournament. Tammela tied for the tournament scoring title with Ross Colton after contributing five goals and nine assists through seven games for Team Johnson (the prospects were split up into four teams, each team named after a current member of the Lightning).
"Last year at this time, I couldn't even skate," Tammela said. "I think I'm on the right path to becoming an even better player. I just need to keep doing what I've been doing the past year. I feel like I'm confident. I'm excited to get back to work back home."
Tammela played his first pro season in 2017-18 once he returned to full health, appearing in 28 games for Syracuse and recording three goals and three assists. With a full offseason to train, Tammela expects to have more of an impact on the Crunch next season.
"Finally, he's pain free and he's healthy and now he can get stronger, have a good, full summer," Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest said. "For a couple years there, it was on and off and he didn't get much done in the offseason. It's great to see, and you can tell he's more confident when he feels good about his body. Hopefully he goes back, has a good couple of months and a good (training) camp."
Tammela's Team Johnson won all three round-robin games it played in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament -- including a 6-2 to victory to hand Team Stamkos its only loss -- to advance to the championship game against Team Stamkos. The final saw five separate lead changes before Team Stamkos scored the last three goals to erase a 5-4 deficit and earn a 7-5 victory and the tournament title.
Team Stamkos was paced by Sammy Walker, who for the second-straight development camp had a strong 3-on-3 tournament. Walker scored nine goals on 16 shots to lead all prospects for goals. He finished third for scoring with 12 points behind Tammela and Colton.
"Sammy's good. He's quick…He's very skilled, very talented," Roest said. "Like them all, he needs time to grow, time to get stronger. Two good camps, and he looked very good this week."
Video: Stacy Roest on the 2018 Development Camp
Walker split time last season between Edina (Minnesota) High, where he scored 28 goals and tallied 30 assists in 25 games, and Sioux City of the USHL (2 goals, 7 assists in 17 games). He'll play at the University of Minnesota this season.
"I think I just got lucky getting put on a good team," Walker said about his tournament success. "I think you want to go out there and have fun. You play your best when you're having fun."
Colton, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Lightning on Tuesday, showed why the Lightning were eager to sign him to a contract after netting seven goals and adding seven assists over seven games in the 3-on-3 tournament to finish tied with Tammela for scoring.
"He's got a NHL shot," Roest said. "You can see he gets in around the net, it's in the net…He's a big, strong kid, skates pretty well…He's a good prospect."
Alex Barre-Boulet, the reigning CHL player of the year, ranked third for goals (6) and tied for fourth for scoring (9 pts.) to pace Team Hedman in the tournament. Connor Ingram finished as the top goalie after making 51 saves on 63 shots for a .810 save percentage.