Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois usually surveys his professional scouting division and analytics workers individually when assembling his NHL commerce deadline targets.
In the course of the halfway level of final season, BriseBois sought upgrades to his backside six.
“We had been looking for good forecheckers that had low cap hits,” BriseBois instructed The Hockey Information.
One title that each Tampa Bay’s eye-test evaluators and quantity crunchers coveted was Mikey Eyssimont. He checked off each field. A digital unknown earlier than turning into an NHL common at 26 final season, Eyssimont is a speedy winger who excelled on the forecheck, performed with an edge and had a knack for getting beneath the pores and skin of his opponents.
“That greatest adjective to explain his sport is relentless,” BriseBois stated. “He’s laborious to play towards. If you wish to achieve success, particularly come playoff time, you’ve bought to be laborious to play towards.”
BriseBois finally traded Vladislav Namestnikov (50 % retained) to the San Jose Sharks for Eyssimont, a participant who was plucked off waivers two months prior. BriseBois sees untapped potential in Eyssimont, who recorded 15 factors in 54 video games final season break up between three groups and maintained robust underlying numbers throughout 5-on-5 play.
As soon as the 2022-23 season concluded, Tampa Bay re-signed Eyssimont to a two-year, $1.6-million contract. A near-league minimal deal might not appear all that newsworthy for a now-27-year-old, however Eyssimont has all of the traits to turn out to be the Bolts’ subsequent nice diamond-in-the-rough signing.
“We expect he can develop into taking part in an even bigger function on our group, and he’s going to be given that chance going ahead,” BriseBois stated.
BriseBois’ perception in Eyssimont is rooted within the latter’s competitiveness. The origin of Eyssimont uncovering that canine in him, per se, is what actually modified the course of his professional profession.
The Littleton, Colo., native was chosen within the fifth spherical of the 2016 draft by the Los Angeles Kings after recording 33 factors in 40 NCAA video games with St. Cloud State as a freshman. After three years of NCAA hockey, Eyssimont joined the AHL’s Ontario Reign forward of the 2018-19 season.
Early in his professional profession, Eyssimont realized he needed to change the best way he performed. The Reign’s coach, Mike Stothers, made it clear from the get-go that Eyssimont would not be capable of get by on ability alone.
Stothers’ critiques added gas to the fireplace for Eyssimont, who developed a repute as a fierce competitor throughout not simply video games however practices as properly.
“His work ethic was simply spectacular. He’d go on the market each day and grind,” stated Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Sean Walker, Eyssimont’s teammate in Ontario that season. “There was a sure struggle in him the place he didn’t care who he was taking part in towards — he was going to battle, claw and do no matter he may to get his means.”
All through three seasons with the Kings’ farm membership, Eyssimont tallied 66 factors in 162 video games and, above all, reinvented himself as an vitality participant.
“It’s not simple to alter your repute from a talented finesse participant to a gritty, hardworking, tenacious participant — or pest, you might say,” Eyssimont stated.
However he was by no means close to the highest of the call-up pecking order for the Kings, who had one of many NHL’s greatest prospect swimming pools on the time.
“And slowly, it created a chip on my shoulder that was greater than the one I already had,” Eyssimont stated. “I used to be going to go on the market and play my coronary heart out. If I take a penalty, it’s going to be as a result of I’m being the toughest employee on the ice. If I piss somebody off in apply, it’s going to be as a result of I’m attempting to get higher.”
The Kings didn’t supply Eyssimont a qualifying supply after the 2020-21 season, making him a UFA. He signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Jets.
Eyssimont was removed from shy in his first few days with the Winnipeg Jets group, and he immediately made his presence identified.
“You’ll be able to ask any of my outdated teammates — they by no means favored practising with me,” Eyssimont stated.
That was no completely different in Winnipeg, even throughout casual skates earlier than coaching camp.
“I simply bear in mind Mikey’s going 100 miles per hour throughout 3-on-3 video games in a zone,” stated Jets defenseman Declan Chisholm. “He was stealing the puck from Blake Wheeler, opening up the hips and doing tight turns. I bear in mind Wheeler being like ‘Oh my God, who is that this man?’ However Mikey didn’t care. He was going to take a puck off a man and rating. He didn’t care who he was.”
Within the NHL, the place the margin for error is so skinny — and the additional one % makes or breaks whether or not you’re within the huge leagues or the AHL — an unapologetically pushed and decided demeanor could make all of the distinction. Eyssimont is aware of who he’s, and he’ll by no means enable exterior elements to veer him away from that.
“He doesn’t let a number of issues have an effect on him, and I’d say Mikey’s fairly distinctive in that means,” stated Pittsburgh Penguins ahead Jansen Harkins, a former teammate of Eyssimont’s with the Jets. “He doesn’t actually let something change that about him. Whether or not it’s another person opinion or issues that occur to him, he’s fairly set in his personal course.”
Eyssimont’s uniqueness is what gravitates many in direction of him.
“He doesn’t care what different folks assume. He got here to Winnipeg and was rocking clothes that was in all probability extra LA-style, and no person’s carrying that stuff in Winnipeg,” Chisholm stated with amusing. “However he doesn’t give a s—. He’s going to put on what he desires, and he’s going to rock it.”
Flamboyant style wasn’t the one factor Eyssimont introduced from the West Coast to Manitoba. Throughout that season with Moose, Eyssimont’s hard-nosed, gritty model of play caught out within the AHL’s Central Division — the place he rapidly turned arguably the league’s most-hated participant. He completed with the Thirty second-most drawn penalties per 60 minutes of any ahead from the 2021-22 season, in line with InStat.
“He’s simply always in your grill,” Chisholm stated. “He’s always placing sticks in your palms, your toes. He’s all the time ending a success. He would possibly offer you a whack or two behind the scenes, too. He doesn’t depart you alone all sport.”
Whereas his 42-point output in 58 video games might incline you to imagine in any other case, Eyssimont was hands-down one of many AHL’s greatest forwards that 12 months. Eyssimont was a possession monster at even power — driving play at each ends of the ice — and created a excessive quantity of high quality probabilities.
Eyssimont carried that momentum from his first 12 months in Winnipeg into this previous season. However regardless of having a powerful coaching camp, Eyssimont didn’t make the Jets roster out of camp.
“You possibly can inform he had a hearth beneath his ass,” Chisholm stated of Eyssimont’s mindset final fall.
Nonetheless, after being a point-per-game participant in his first 9 AHL video games, Eyssimont was the primary participant recalled when Winnipeg had a ahead harm. In 19 NHL video games with Winnipeg, Eyssimont recorded 5 factors and solidified himself as a succesful bottom-six ahead — all whereas persevering with to show his pest-like traits, which rattled the cage of a number of NHLers, comparable to Jack Johnson. However as soon as the Jets bought more healthy, Eyssimont was the odd man out. The Jets positioned him on waivers, and the Sharks swooped in to say him.
“Once I bought the decision that San Jose picked me up off waivers — It was one of the best day of my life,” Eyssimont stated. “It actually was one of the best feeling on this planet, understanding one other group was going to provide me an opportunity.”
San Jose featured Eyssimont prominently within the group’s prime six, and his play finally put him on Tampa Bay’s radar.
He was extraordinarily environment friendly at 5-on-5, recording a team-high scoring chance-for proportion (62.46 %) and the second-highest Corsi-for proportion (58.5 %) whereas averaging 13:07 of ice time per sport, according to naturalstattrick.com. In that very same span, Eyssimont completed behind solely Timo Meier in 5-on-5 photographs per 60 minutes (13.02).
“By the tip there, he was taking part in with Logan Couture,” BriseBois identified. “We thought, if he can play with Logan Couture, he can play with our good gamers, too, and he may find yourself (complementing) among the gamers we have already got on the group.”
His promotion to the highest six didn’t imply he was any much less annoying, as he even baited future teammate Brayden Level right into a struggle.
Mikey Eyssimont vs Brayden Level pic.twitter.com/OVfyAJmFNn
— JD Younger (@MyFryHole) February 8, 2023
Life was good, albeit hectic, in San Jose. On March 1, lower than two months after arriving within the Bay Space, Eyssimont was at a grocery retailer making ready for what would’ve been his first home-cooked meal in his new condo. However that every one modified when he acquired a name — San Jose traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I used to be starstruck,” Eyssimont stated. “The group I watched essentially the most was taking me. I didn’t miss many Tampa Bay Lightning video games on TV, every time I used to be free.”
Eyssimont match proper into the Lightning’s lineup seamlessly. He recorded two factors in 15 regular-season video games and continued driving 5-on-5 play — rating second in Corsi-for proportion (54.7 %) and fourth in scoring-for proportion (54.3 %). He additionally led full-time Lightning gamers in particular person anticipated objectives per 60 minutes (1.06) and shot makes an attempt per 60 (21.3), in line with naturalstattrick.com. He even completed third on the Lightning in hits per 60 (11.94) since March 1.
“He was delivering what we had seen previous to buying him,” BriseBois stated. “That capability to go on the market and create turnovers and generate scoring probabilities off these turnovers — which he creates off the forecheck. The extra snug he bought, we had been seeing him make performs with the puck.”
The subsequent step for Eyssimont is to up his offensive manufacturing.
“I’ve to study to transform on extra of those probabilities that I’m getting as a result of I’m seeing quite a bit each sport,” Eyssimont stated.
However Eyssimont isn’t overly involved with hypothetical level totals. His sights are set on constructing off of final 12 months and solidifying himself as a key a part of a contending group. And good luck stopping him.
“To me, it’s all the time been NHL or bust. I’ve by no means seen every other route moreover that in my life,” Eyssimont stated. “I do know I’m nonetheless establishing myself within the league, and I’ve two extra years on this contract to do this, however I’ve the perspective that that is what I need to do with my life — that is what I’m going to do, and I’ll cease at nothing.”
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