The past month on the calendar has been quite the whirlwind for Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Tyler Johnson.
On March 14, Johnson was recalled to Tampa Bay, where shortly thereafter he made his National Hockey League debut. The club’s top minor-league affiliate in Syracuse, of which Johnson is a part, also just recently clinched a berth in the postseason.
But on Friday, Johnson garnered an even bigger prize – the American Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player Award.
“I’m pretty surprised and to be honest, it wasn’t something I was thinking about during the season, but I’m honored,” Johnson said. “It’s an award that is presented to an individual, but really it’s a team award, so I have to thank all of my teammates and my coaches. They’ve been unbelievable in helping me get to this point.”
For some, the award might not come as much of a surprise as it did to Johnson himself.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, Johnson leads all AHL skaters with 33 goals, while also ranking 10th in points with 60, coming in as many games.
Mind you, Johnson also missed some time with the Crunch due to his NHL recall last month to Tampa Bay, with whom he recorded three goals, six points and a plus-3 rating in 14 games.
“It is a well-deserved award,” said Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois, who also serves as assistant general manager of the Lightning. “Tyler is a valuable member of our team as he contributes in all areas. Power play, penalty killing, scoring big goals, creating plays, retrieving pucks. He is a relentless competitor and a big reason why the Crunch have won so many games this year.”
Undrafted, Johnson first burst on to the scene with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs, scoring a league-best 53 goals for the club during the 2010-11 season.
He then caught the eye of Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff, who then signed the forward to a standard three-year entry level contact on March 7, 2011.
With the announcement Friday, Johnson also became the second player in the organization to be named AHL MVP in as many years, as former teammate Cory Conacher brought home the same award at this time a year ago.
“Having back to back AHL MVPs is a tribute to the outstanding work done by all members of our scouting staff,” BriseBois added. “They are responsible for replenishing our pipeline of players and the quality of their work in this regard merits acknowledgment.”
After today, of course Johnson proves to be no exception to the diligent work performed by not only him, but all of those within the organization.
“It’s a great league, one of the best in the world, so to be recognized for it is really special,” Johnson added. “The guys who I compete with and against every night are top-notch players, so I really can’t express it any other way. It’s just awesome.”