Point savours draft day

Matthew Gourlie
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Tampa Bay selects Warriors centre in third round

After being told that it was a day that may never come, Brayden Point was going to enjoy every second of it when it did.

Brayden Point, right, from the Moose Jaw Warriors looks to make a pass in front of Regina Pats defenceman Colby Williams.

The Moose Jaw Warriors centre may have waited longer than expected to hear his name called at Saturday's National Hockey League draft, but that didn't bother him in the slightest.

The under-sized centre said he was really happy when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round, with the 79th overall pick of the NHL draft.

Point has grown nearly five inches since the Warriors selected him three years ago. He now stands a shade under 5-10 and weighs 160 pounds. He also tallied 91 points a season ago, but it has been his size — and lack thereof — that has always been one of the first things that comes up when talking about his hockey future.

"I've always had those doubters or naysayers about being a smaller player. I've also had a lot of people who have supported me as well," said Point who attended the draft in Philadelphia. "Getting the chance to get drafted is a huge honour and definitely a reward for my hard work and not quitting or giving up."

Former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis is a trailblazer for undersized players with skill and Point is happy to be headed to Tampa Bay.

"They have had guys on their team who are smaller and have had a lot of success. You look at St. Louis and Tyler Johnson, they're players that have done well and are smaller players," said Point who was legitimately surprised he ended up being selected by the Lightning.

"I didn't think I would be going to Tampa. I talked to them once after a game in Moose Jaw and it wasn't anything too serious. That was the only conversation I had with them."

Al Murray, the Lightning's director of amateur scouting, is based in Regina and clearly liked what he saw during Point's first two seasons in Moose Jaw.

In fact, the Lightning traded up a spot to acquire Point. The dealt the 80th pick and a 2015 seventh rounder they had picked up from Vancouver in the Jason Garrison trade to Minnesota to ensure that they got Point with the 79th pick.

Point's work ethic and hockey smarts have always endeared him to the staff in Moose Jaw and at Hockey Canada. That combined with his obvious skill made him a dark horse to go be selected in the first round. For his part, Point did his best not to worry too much on where he might be selected.

"I tried to enjoy it as a fun day more than anything," he said of his experience watching the first round on Friday. "It's pretty tough to be a first round guy, so I just tried to enjoy the experience more than anything."

That was how he approached Saturday even as 49 names came off the board before he was taken.

"I tried to relax, not panic and trust that a team was going to take me," said Point who was with family and friends in the stands. "You start to wonder if a team is ever going to take you, but I was pretty confident in what I did this year and I was pretty confident that a team was going to take a shot on me.

"It was a pretty cool experience. It went by pretty quick on the second day."

Point scored 36 goals and amassed 91 points while proving his durability by playing in all 72 games last season. That gives him 148 points in 139 games over the past two WHL seasons. He had seven goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games with the Warriors in 2012 as an underage player. He has also played at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and at the Memorial of Hlinka and the IIHF World Under-18 Championships last season.

He was the only Warrior selected in the draft. A total of 37 WHL players were selected, including nine in the first round.

Point won't have much time to celebrate his achievement after he returns home to Calgary. He heads out Tuesday to take part in the Lightning's development camp.

"It's going to be a really competitive camp. I want to try to enjoy the experience and hopefully do my best," said Point.

"It's a pretty quick turnaround. I'm going to enjoy (Monday) and then it's time to get back to work," he added. "It's like two continual seasons that are starting to bleed into one another. It's a lot of hockey. It's a lot of hard work, but it's a lot of fun."

Organizations: National Hockey League, Tampa Bay Lightning, Hockey Canada

Geographic location: Tampa, Moose Jaw, Philadelphia St. Louis Regina Vancouver Minnesota Calgary

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