The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference at the season’s halfway mark despite facing a number of significant challenges. While many point to Ben Bishop and Martin St. Louis as major keys to their overall success, and rightly so, it should be noted the play of numerous rookies have provided quite a boost.
One worth mentioning is forward Ondrej Palat, who’s right now playing some of the best hockey of his young career. Currently carrying a league-high and career-high eight game point streak, this kid’s offensive abilities are already something special. Yet it’s his all-around game causing opposing teams around the league to take notice.
Boasting an incredible plus-13 rating, which ranks tops on the Lightning and third among league rookies, Palat has consistently proven that he can be counted on in every situation. Quite a luxury for a team that’s struggled defensively, especially in recent years.
Another impressive fact about Palat is the way he can adjust rather quickly to new linemates. When Steven Stamkos went down Nov. 11 in Boston, it was obvious coach Jon Cooper needed to do some line shuffling. He did, and in a bit of an unorthodox move two rookies–Palat and longtime linemate Tyler Johnson– ended up alongside St. Louis on the team’s top line.
It’s worked, as those three have combined for 87 points and a relatively high plus-minus rating. That’s wonderful news for a team vying to earn their first playoff appearance in two years.
No matter what happens in the season’s second half, Palat has shown he can not only survive, but also thrive, at the NHL level. An encouraging sign heading towards what looks to be a bright future for both him and the Lightning.