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World Championship

Brayden Point of Lightning finds bittersweet reward at World Championship

Rookie center happy to play for Canada, disappointed that Tampa Bay missed Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

PARIS -- Brayden Point wasn't ready to end his successful rookie season.

That's why Point, who had 58 points (18 goals, 40 points) in 68 games in his first season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, accepted an invitation to play for Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

"It's cool to be in a men's tournament like this," Point told NHL.com. "It's quite the honor. Just getting to meet a lot of new guys is pretty cool. You play against them for the first time this year, and then to meet them … it's an awesome tournament.

"It's a good, fun group, too."

 

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But having the opportunity to join Canada was bittersweet.

His first NHL season came to a too-early end when Tampa Bay failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012-13. The Lightning (42-30-10) finished fifth in the Atlantic Division; with 94 points, they trailed the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs by one point for the two wild card entries into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay went 8-1-1 in its final 10 games and won its last three but came up short. Despite the disappointment, the season helped set a tone for Point.

"I just want to put in a good summer and work my hardest to get a little faster, get a little stronger, and come back better," the 21-year-old said. "You have to keep progressing."

Point was a big reason behind the Lightning's late-season push.

He had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in his final 15 games while centering the Lightning's top line. Point finished the season on a three-game point streak (four goals, two assists) and had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his final 10 games.

Video: TBL@TOR: Point goes top shelf for his second goal

"Injuries, especially up the middle, dismantled our team and we needed someone to be a No. 1 center," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who is coaching Canada at the World Championship. "That kid … we put him in the role and he flourished in it. He made everyone else around him better. It's been an unbelievable growth year for him. I know there's other rookies in the league whose names have overshadowed his, but he was arguably one of our top players all year and we don't make the run we did without Brayden Point."

Without injured forwards Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette, and wih the Lightning having dealt Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle at the NHL Trade Deadline, Cooper moved Point up the depth chart onto a line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The combination clicked.

"To play with those two guys was a great privilege," Point said. "They make the game so much easier. It was a lot of fun. You definitely know you've got great players, some of the best in the league, on your line.

"At the start I was a little more nervous because I wanted to make plays with those guys."

Cooper said playing for Canada should help Point's confidence.

"Mentally, it solidifies him sitting here saying, 'I've found my way to the NHL,' but all of a sudden the World Championship team gets picked and he's one of the guys that's asked to go," Cooper said. "Players excel on their confidence. The more confident they are the better they get.

"This will do nothing but help somebody's confidence to sit here and say, 'Wow, I'm playing with some exceptional players from the National Hockey League against the best players in the world and I'm doing well.' I think it's his confidence that's going to help."
 

Results from Saturday

United States 5, Latvia 3: Andrew Copp (Winnipeg Jets) scored the game-winning goal with 3:22 remaining in the third period for the United States, which trailed by two goals twice in a Group A preliminary round game at Laxness Arena in Cologne. Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers) had a goal and an assist, and Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) and Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) each scored goals to help the U.S. win its fourth consecutive game.

Russia 6, Slovakia 0: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) made 22 saves, Vadim Shipachyov (Vegas Golden Knights) had three assists and Nikita Kucherov (Lightning) scored a goal in Cologne to help first-place Russia remain the only unbeaten team in Group A.

Finland 3, Norway 2: Markus Hannikainen scored in overtime, Julius Honka (Dallas Stars) had a goal, and Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes) had an assist in a Group B preliminary round game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

Belarus 5, Slovenia 2: Alexander Pavlovich scored two goals and had an assist to help Belarus win for the first time in Group B in Paris.

Sweden 3, Canada 2: Fabrice Herzog scored two goals including in overtime in a Group B preliminary round game in Paris. Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Ryan O'Reilly (Buffalo Sabres) scored for Canada.

Germany 4, Italy 1: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) and Denis Sedenberg (New York Islanders) each had an assist in a Group A preliminary round game in Cologne.

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