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Lightning's Howden enjoying first taste of NHL life

2016 first-round pick using junior teammate, fellow Tampa Bay prospect Point as role model

by Corey Long / Correspondent

BRANDON, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Howden got his first lesson in how to skate in the NHL on Wednesday. 

Professional skating coach Barb Underhill instructed Howden during a number of drills, from power skating to balance to changing speeds.

Howden, selected by the Lightning with the 27th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, had watched Underhill work with players before, but experiencing it first hand was a different story.

"I knew I had a lot to learn," Howden said. "I actually met her when she was in Moose Jaw [of the Western Hockey League] working with Brayden Point. I watched her but I didn't go on the ice. This was pretty good."

Video: Lightning draft F Brett Howden No. 27

Howden, 18, described draft day as a surreal moment in his life. But his first day on the ice as a Lightning prospect was exciting.

"It was fun to get on the ice and put that Tampa Bay jersey on," he said. "I looked in the mirror and started smiling. It's been very emotional for sure, but I think my nerves go away when I'm on the ice. It was a good, high-tempo practice."

If things go well, the Howden name could become well known by NHL fans in Florida. Howden's older brother, Quinton, 24, had six goals and 11 points in 58 games with the Florida Panthers this season.

Brett Howden said his brother has been supportive of him through his hockey development.

"He's always helping me, and even during the season we text and FaceTime," Howden said. "We're different players but I definitely try to follow his work ethic and that's something he takes a lot of pride in. Any questions I have he will answer them and I honestly believe that's a part of the reason I am where I am today."

As for the potential of an intrastate rivalry between brothers, Howden said it's something fun to think about.

Howden is a big body who appears larger than his 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame. And while he says he can play a physical game like his brother, he is more comfortable as a playmaker. In 68 regular-season games with Moose Jaw this season, he had 24 goals and 40 assists, and had four goals and 15 points in 10 WHL playoff games.

Center Brayden Point, the Lightning's third-round pick (No. 79) in the 2014 draft, has been teammates with Howden for the past two seasons in Moose Jaw. He has taken Howden under his wing during development camp to help him get acclimated to the Lightning.

Video: Brett Howden on Development Camp

"[Howden] is a good two-way guy," Point said. 'He plays good [defense]. He was on the power play and the penalty kill this year. He's good on the puck, good on faceoffs. He's a big body, obviously. He is a pretty much an all-around player."

Point and Howden had their lockers next to each other in Moose Jaw and developed a friendship. They worked together on the ice after practice and Howden said he acted as a sponge while observing Point's leadership qualities as well as the respect he had in the locker room. When the Lightning asked Point what he thought of Howden, he had all good things to say.

"I just gave them my honest opinion," Point said. "It was all good things because of the way he plays and the kind of guy he is. We never talked about the possibility of [the Lightning] drafting him. But I told them what I saw and how I felt playing with him."

Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest said Howden's growth was tracked while monitoring Point's development in Moose Jaw. When the Lightning began to think about drafting Howden it was only natural to get an opinion from Point.

"We feel we know Brayden as well as we do and he knows Brett really well," Roest said. "They sat beside each other in Moose Jaw and they spoke very highly of each other. Of course having Brayden there, we were with [Moose Jaw] maybe more than other junior teams. It was fun watching Brett become a complete player and watching his progression."

Howden said he wants to use the week of development camp to continue to improve his skills while getting familiar with the players he hopes will be his NHL teammates in the next few years.

"Obviously I'm happy to have someone like Brayden here and I'm looking forward to getting to know the other guys," Howden said. "I just want to work hard and represent the Lightning the best way I can."

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