World Championships tournament provides Bolts with opportunity to hone skills during season’s hiatus
It probably goes without saying, but Bolts forward Nate Thompson said it anyway.
“Anytime your team misses a chance to play in the postseason,” he said, “it’s obviously disappointing.”
But for Thompson, along with Lightning teammates JT Brown and Teddy Purcell, the opportunity to play in the upcoming World Championships should at least serve as a small consolation.
“It is,” Thompson added, “our playoffs.”
And it is also a good opportunity for each participating member of the Lightning to gain some experience playing on the international stage.
For starters, all three players are each making their World Championships debuts, exposing them to some of the world’s top talent outside the realm of the NHL for the very first time.
Furthermore, due to several players still competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is room for each of the Bolts to step into some prominent roles on their respective clubs, including some they might even be somewhat unfamiliar with.
In a way, it is an extension of the Lightning’s season, in which a large number of injuries caused several individuals to step up and carry the load in the absence of some of its key stars.
While at times challenging, however, that adversity was also said to have benefited the team.
“It was a good learning lesson for all of us,” Purcell said. “It definitely prepared us to take on some bigger responsibilities and I think we’re all better players because of it.”
Also working in Purcell’s favor for the upcoming tournament is a sense of familiarity with Guy Boucher, who was named assistant coach by Team Canada, for whom Purcell will play.
Having coached Purcell for two full seasons in Tampa Bay, Boucher perhaps knows better than anyone how to push Purcell to becoming a better player as he not only strives to find consistency in his game, but also looks to build off a career year with the Lightning in which he recorded 24 goals and 65 points in 81 regular season games.
Thompson, meanwhile, should just as much benefit from reconnecting with Team USA head coach Scott Gordon, who was Thompson’s head coach during his time with both Providence of the AHL, as well as the New York Islanders.
“I think it helps as a player to have that relationship,” Thompson said, “but more than anything, when you have an opportunity to play more hockey, it’s always good for your overall game.”
Thompson is solid in the faceoff circle, strong defensively, and plays an important role as an aggressive penalty killer, but nonetheless said he would be prepared to take on any role that is asked of him as he looks to make the most of his opportunity.
As for Brown, Team USA has a history of bringing young talent to these tournaments, which could play a pivotal role in introducing the young forward to a playoff-type atmosphere and acclimating him to playing in more games against established players.
“I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to my advantage,” Brown said. “I expect it to be highly competitive, so I’m planning on going out there and competing hard, and to do so while representing your country is a privilege and an honor.”
And generally speaking, a chance to improve as a player too.