Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson was a guest on NHL Live to discuss his nomination for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the League's top rookie, and to reflect on the 2013-14 season.
Johnson, Lightning forward Ondrej Palat and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon are the three finalists for the Calder Trophy. Johnson and Palat are the first teammates to receive nominations since Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks finished first and third, respectively, in 2008.
The winner will be announced on June 24 during the 2014 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
"It's a tremendous honor," Johnson said. "It's obviously pretty special that Pally is another guy that's up there with me. We're very close. We're teammates and linemates for the past three years. It's pretty fun right now."
Johnson's 24 goals set a Lightning rookie record and tied MacKinnon for the lead among first-year players. His five shorthanded goals were tied for the League lead, and he's the second rookie in NHL history to have five shorthanded and five power-play goals in one season (Dennis Maruk, 1975-76).
Johnson is the first undrafted Calder finalist since Chicago goaltender Ed Belfour won the award in 1991. When asked if there was a sense of validation because he was passed up in the draft, he said in the long run it probably helped him not being drafted.
"It's just kind of weird how things turned out," Johnson said. "Obviously disappointed at the time, but now looking back at it, it probably worked out better for me."
After missing the playoffs last season, the Lightning went 46-27-9 (101 points) to finish second in the Atlantic Division. Their Stanley Cup Playoff run ended with a four-game sweep to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round.
"It was disappointing for our team just because we had such a great season," Johnson said. "It wasn't necessarily what we wanted, but playing in a Stanley Cup Playoff in the NHL is just unbelievable. It's a dream come true to actually be able to be in the tournament to compete for that prized possession, the Stanley Cup. It's kind of a surreal feeling knowing that you're finally up there competing.
"Obviously this year wasn't our year. We didn't play that well in the playoffs, but you learn from it, you gain experience and you come back even more determined next year."