With 16 games remaining on the season, the 23-year-old former undrafted free agent signee has a solid chance to put his name into the Lightning record book. But Johnson has an interesting perspective on possibly surpassing the record Stamkos set when scoring 23 goals during his first season in the NHL.
“I think he was 18 when he did that feat right? And if I’m not mistaken he got 60 when he was 20 or 21,’’ Johnson said. “I mean I don’t really think about it at all. I’m just trying to help the team out and have as good of the year as I possibly can and we’re trying to make a playoff push right now.’’
Johnson was named MVP in the American Hockey League last season after leading the league with 37 goals. After making the team out of training camp in a third-line role, Johnson eventually was elevated into top line center when Stamkos missed more than three months with a broken leg. It’s a challenge Johnson accepted and thrived on, as he entered Saturday tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals and five shorthanded points.
“(Stamkos’ absence) forced Tyler into some situations where maybe he may not have played in, at least early in the year that has given him opportunities to score,’’ head coach Jon Cooper said. “But he is one of the many kids that we’ve had to rely on to be in the spot we are in today, so he’s deserve all 21 (goals) and whatever more he’s going to get.’’
On the board
After missing nearly four months of action, Stamkos found the scoresheet in his fourth game back from injury, picking up a goal and an assist during Thursday’s 5-4 victory against Florida.
Not producing in his first three games back, however, was not something that was weighing on his mind.
“I don’t think it’s as important as everyone thinks,’’ Stamkos said. “As long as you’re getting the chances I’m okay with it. I want to produce and help this team win and I was fortunate to do that last game but I think we are more worried about wins and points and trying to get into the playoffs. If I can help the team out in that regard it’s going to be good.’’
Though C Valtteri Filppula returned to action on March 4 after missing a month with a fracture in his ankle, he might now finally be feeling healthy. And if his three assist night against Florida was any indication, Cooper said Filppula is back on track.
“I actually thought he was the best player on the ice (Thursday),’’ Cooper said. “He’s finally hitting a stride and you have to think he’s out a month he couldn’t really expected to dive right in. (But) Fill controlled the game, he had the puck on his stick and he was just making plays.’’