TORONTO – Teddy Purcell is starting to use his size to his advantage, and he’s finding himself on the scoresheet as a result.
The 25-year-old right-winger had three assists in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
“He’s physically involved,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of the six-foot-three, 202-pound Purcell.
He added with a laugh: “I didn’t say hitting–that’s not his thing—but he’s in the battle.
“When he’s floating around waiting for pucks, he’s not in the game. When he’s in the battle, he comes out with pucks, he’s lethal. He’s an amazing passer, he’s got an incredible shot, so he needs to have the puck.”
Never drafted, Purcell has found a home with Tampa He was dealt to the Lightning along with a third-round 2010 draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings for Jeff Halpern in what appeared to be a fairly minor transaction at last year’s trade deadline.
The native of St. John’s, N.L., has 47 points through 69 games and his 32 assists are third on the team. Only superstars Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have more.
Purcell is often slotted beside centre Vincent Lecavalier and left-winger Simon Gagne, but that’s only when Boucher likes what he sees from the youngster.
“It depends,” Boucher said. “When I see he has one of those floating games, he plays more on the fourth line. When I see that he’s battling, he deserves to play on that second line.”
With just 34 points in 110 career NHL games prior to this season, 2010-11 is a breakout campaign for Purcell, though Lecavalier said signs of the coming-out party started last year.
“You could tell he was going to be a great player,” Lecavalier said. “We have a great chemistry and I definitely want to keep playing with him.”
Stamkos believes Purcell, originally signed by the Kings as a free agent in April 2007, is one of Tampa’s most talented players.
“He’s got the undercover, really good shot that surprises a lot of people,” Stamkos said. “We get on him to shoot the puck, but he’s just got great hands. He reads the ice and he’s starting to realize what he can do in this league.
“All you can ask for as a young guy, I went through it my first year, is an opportunity to show what you can do. He’s been given that opportunity, he’s had some ups and down, but he’s learning and he’s putting the work in.”