DETROIT – Forward Tomas Tatar burst onto the scene in 2013-14 posting quality numbers in the absence of many injured Red Wings. His second season was even better reaching new career highs and making a statement, avoiding the possibility of a sophomore slump.
Appearing in all 82 games this season, Tatar impressed by not just matching his totals from a season ago but drastically improving upon them with career highs in goals (28), assists (29), points (56), power-play goals (9) and game-winning goals (7).
“That’s what most people are telling me that the second season is hard to repeat but I feel like in Detroit it’s not as much because you wait for your chance for so long,” Tatar said. “They make sure you’re ready to be in the NHL, so the first year is not any different. The more years you play, you feel more experienced and you can play better.”
The Ilava, Slovakia, native posted three separate five-game point streaks and four multi-goal games en route to a team-high in goals.
Skating as a top-six forward, Tatar spent much of the season alongside players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. Playing with some of the top forwards in the NHL, Tatar came into his own and was a constant source of offense.
“I feel way more confident,” Tatar said. “(I have) established myself more here, you know, first year I had to try and find my role and I feel like now I know what I’m supposed to do to help the team. It’s just different for me.”
A significant contributor on the team’s second-ranked power play, Tatar had 19 power-play points – another career high – and was one-of-five Wings players to reach that total on a unit that converted 23.8 percent of its man-advantage opportunities.
Tatar was a second-round draft pick in 2009, and has since made tremendous strides in his development as a well-rounded winger. Finishing with a plus-6 rating, Tatar was third among Wings forwards and was significantly improved from a season ago.
At times, it seemed as if he willed his team to victory, like his impressive three-point performance in a 3-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 7. He tallied the game-winning goal in that contest – one of his career-high seven game-winning goals this season – and recorded two goals and seven points during that five-game span in early February.
The 24-year-old is wise beyond his years, constantly learning and looking for areas of improvement to his game.
“Obviously, there’s lots of spots where you can get way, way better but you know you’re getting close to your prime years and you’re trying to get better, you’re learning more stuff,” Tatar said. “Obviously, everybody wish they were as smart when they’re 18 (compared to) when you’re 28 or 25, 24. So you’re taking experience and trying to transfer it to your game and you’re learning new stuff in the offseason and just trying to become a better player.”
Following his first 50-point season, Tatar is still in the early stages of his development as an NHL player. He will get plenty of experience as he approaches the apex of his career, still with room to improve. Along with players like Nyquist, Tatar will be called upon to carry the torch as the next generation of dominant Wings forwards.