Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin saw first-hand the talent and knowledge his new Lightning teammate Teddy Purcell has during in the 2006-07 season.
Lundin, a senior at the time, and Purcell, a freshman, helped the University of Maine Black Bears to the Frozen Four. Along the way, Lundin witnessed the desire of an athlete who wanted the game of hockey to be a big part of his future.
“Coming out of high school hockey and playing in college, you don’t get too many passionate people who want to make it their profession and study the game as much as they do in the junior leagues,” Lundin said. “It was good for me to be around that kind of guy. You can tell he loves everything about the game.
“You always talk about it with your buddies – who do you think is going to make it? With his skills, we knew that he’d be playing at this level and doing well. He’s scored in juniors, college, the minors and he’s going to score here.”
Why not in Tampa?
Purcell, 24, was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings March 3, along with a 2010 third-round pick. In two games, Purcell has two assists and penalty-shot goal, which displayed his skill level in the 6-2 victory over Atlanta Saturday.
Throughout his career, he has been a big-time scorer. He had 46 points in 51 games at Notre Dame, the prep school where Vincent Lecavalier excelled. He had 138 points in 113 games in the United States Hockey League and 43 points in 40 games at Maine. He recorded 121 points in 105 American Hockey League games, not including a hat trick in the 2008 All-Star Classic, in which he was the MVP.
The next step, the biggest, is breaking through the barrier in the NHL.
“I was playing with good players and we were getting chances earlier in the season,” said Purcell, who had three goals, three assists for the Kings. “I guess it was just the wrong time to get into a slump. I’ve had them in college, juniors and the AHL and I’ve worked through it and have been given time to work through it. But the NHL is a different level. The margin for error is a lot less, so it kind of caught up with me.
“This is a fresh start for me and it’s a great opportunity. I just need to get over that little hump, that wall, and prove I can be a consistent player in this league -- not just show those signs of potential.”
Purcell, who grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, played right wing on a line with Lecavalier and Ryan Malone the first two games and showed his poise with the puck at 6-foot-3, 202 pounds.
“He’s got some good hands and a good shot,” Lightning Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. “The one thing I told him, ‘You can’t be shy out there, go in the corners, get in front of the net, and all the other stuff will take care of itself.’
“This is a situation where he gets a new chance. If he stays hungry, I think he might be a guy, with his skill set, that can do some damage.”
Purcell said he was the “typical Canadian kid,” growing up with the game in the east end of St. John’s. He loved the game so much that he traveled to tiny Wilcox, Saskatchewan to play for Notre Dame Academy for a year.
The next stop was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he played two seasons for the Rough Riders of the USHL and set the career record in points with 138 in two seasons.
Still, Purcell did not get selected in the NHL draft. He moved on to Orono, Maine. to meet Lundin and the Black Bears.
“My parents and me talked about going to Maine and saw it as a great opportunity to get an education to fall back on,” Purcell said. “Halfway through that season, I started putting up numbers and had some opportunities to sign.”
Purcell signed with the Kings and spent most of the 2007-08 season with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, totaling 25 goals and 58 assists in 67 games, and was named the league’s top rookie. He also spent 10 games with the Kings, getting his first NHL goal against Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff in February of 2008.
After splitting time in Manchester and Hollywood in 2008-09, Purcell started the season primarily playing on the line with Jarrett Stoll and USA Olympian Dustin Brown this season. He also played on the power play. Unfortunately, the puck didn’t bounce right for him and he was in the lineup just four times after December 30 for the Kings.
“It was the first time in my career I hadn’t played like that,” Purcell said. “It was tough. There was a lot of adversity, but at the same time the Kings were doing well so I had to be a good teammate, work hard in practice and be ready for the opportunity. It obviously didn’t work there, but this is a new challenge and I’m really fortunate. I’ll do anything I can to make the best of it.”
Playing with Lecavalier and Malone, in a playoff push, is a good way to do it.
“It’s exciting to play with two world-class players,” Purcell said. “It makes life a lot easier for me, coming into a new team and playing with such elite players. I’m just trying to get comfortable and feel my way through.
“It’s a fun part of the season. Every game is a fight for your life. Everyone in here is passionate and excited.”