Palat leaves an unexpected legacy of success with Lightning

When the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Ondrej Palat in the seventh round, 208th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, no one could have imagined the impact he would have on the franchise. Seventh-round picks are often seen as nothing more than filler, after all, as the chances of making an impact in the NHL after being selected so late are virtually nil.

However, every once in a while the perfect marriage between player and franchise happens, and for Lightning, Palat was the right fit for their aspirations. He wasn’t the greatest forward available, nor the most skilled (despite scoring 96 points with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League prior to his draft year), but he was always one of the hardest working skaters. when he took the ice cream.

Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat is one of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s greatest players, with memorable goals and unforgettable production on the ice. (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Thanks to his hard work ethic, his game quickly translated to professional hockey, where he started playing for the Lightning’s then-American Hockey League affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, in 2011-12. . It was a really special team, which continued to win 28 consecutive matches before the playoffs and ultimately won the 2012 Calder Cup. Palat was a key contributor to that run both on and off the ice, and that play did not go unnoticed by the Lightning.

This led to his recall during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season for 14 games, after the Lightning finished selling starters at the trade deadline. The Lightning have been terrible this season, but a glimpse of young players like Palat has helped assure fans that the future is still incredibly bright.

Palat continuously exceeded at every step

Following this call, Palat took to the ice for the entire 2013-14 season, playing in 81 games, scoring 23 goals and 59 points while finishing second in the Calder Trophy voting as the NHL’s top rookie. His competition was tough, as he only lost to 2013 first draft pick Nathan MacKinnon and edged out his friend and teammate, Tyler Johnson, who finished third.

With that exceptional start under his belt, Palat was now a known quantity in the NHL. He wasn’t a star, but the league was well aware that the Lightning had exceptional young talent filling their forward corps.

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This continued into the 2014-15 season, when Palat, Johnson and Nikita Kucherov have teamed up to form the ‘Triplets’ line, which was one of the most dominant forward lines in hockey. These young guns raced across the ice with unabashed enthusiasm, scoring goals and points in spades. They were also major contributors to the Lightning’s unexpected run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, which cemented their place as league stars.

Following all these successes, Palat had a relatively difficult few years, where he had to deal with injuries during the regular season and saw his points total drop a bit. However, where he didn’t miss a beat was in the playoffs. In 2016 and 2018, he was one of the Lightning’s best players, scoring 10 and 12 points respectively.

Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning
Palat has been among the Lightning’s best forward lines for years, producing strong point totals when he’s stayed healthy. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Finally, in his final three seasons with Tampa Bay, Palat cemented his legacy. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 and had his best NHL playoff performance in 2022, posting 11 goals and 21 points in 23 games played.

In all Palat ended his career with the Bolts with 138 playoff games played for the Lightning, posting 48 goals and 94 points. That places him second overall in franchise history in playoff goals scored and games played, and third overall in points. Those are incredible numbers, especially from a seventh-round pick.

Palat has earned its place in lightning history

Whenever a player as remarkable as Palat leaves the franchise that drafted him, there will always be myriad emotions felt. However, in this case, it seems that the best feeling is pride.

Tampa Bay fans shouldn’t be upset with Palat for taking the contract he rightfully earned, or sad for his departure. No, they should be proud to have been able to experience such an exceptional player for over a decade, who left a legacy of success on the franchise that no one could have predicted. Sure, he may not have been a superstar, but he was a true star for the Lightning and will forever be one of the greatest success stories in Tampa Bay sports history.

Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning
Although he was never a superstar, Palat has always been an underrated key to the Lightning’s success as a franchise over the past decade. (Jess Star/The Hockey Writers)

So while it will be heartbreaking to see Palat wear a different jersey on opening night, that doesn’t mean fans still can’t wish him the best as a person and a player (except when he’s playing. the Lightning). Without him, it’s impossible to know where the franchise would be right now, and we’ve all been blessed to experience the excitement he brought to the ice at all levels of hockey for over a decade.

Robert M. Larson