Out of all the players who have suited up for the 2021-22 Tampa Bay Lightning, only three are playing in their first NHL season. There is winger Taylor Raddysh, who was selected by the organization in the second round (58th overall) of the 2016 Draft. He has played in 28 games so far, posting four goals and five assists for nine points. There is winger Gabriel Fortier, who has played in seven games for Tampa without any points yet. He was a second-round selection for the Bolts (59th overall) in 2018. Then, there is left winger Boris Katchouk. He has played in 21 games with five points (one goal and four assists). He was drafted by Tampa in the second round (44th overall) in 2016.
Katchouk is finally getting valuable NHL time to help grow his game and hopefully transition his play to a consistent level for the Lightning. He is in one of the best positions considering Tampa’s star power in players like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Brayden Point, among other teammates. He is being mentored by a few of the best the league has to offer. There is also the fact that the franchise has won the last two Stanley Cup championships. Katchouk could probably not be in a better position based on these factors.
Before even stepping foot onto NHL ice, though, Katchouk already grew a lot through different leagues he previously played in. He gradually became the talent to who general manager Julien BriseBois and head coach Jon Cooper felt comfortable giving an NHL spot. He is currently working to transition his game to the NHL level. Before discussing his work in the league this season, here is some background on his hockey journey before becoming a member of the Lightning.
Development in the OHL and AHL
Katchouk played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He only suited up in a couple of games in his first campaign in 2014-15, but the following year he became a force for them offensively. He was one of the top offensive talents in the remaining three years he was with the club. He and Philadelphia Flyers forward Morgan Frost were two of the top contributors for them at the time. Katchouk posted the following regular-season stats while with the Greyhounds:
- 2014-15: two assists in 12 games
- 2015-16: 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points in 63 games
- 2016-17: 35 goals and 29 assists for 64 points in 66 games
- 2017-18: 42 goals and 43 assists for 85 points in 58 games
Out of the four campaigns, the Greyhounds made the playoffs in three of them. Katchouk remained a top scorer for them during those runs and proved he could be relied on in crucial matches. Here are his postseason numbers:
- 2015-16: six goals and four assists for 10 points in 12 games
- 2016-17: eight goals and five assists for 13 points in 11 games
- 2017-18: 19 goals and 18 assists for 37 points in 24 games
Katchouk left the Greyhounds following the 2017-18 campaign and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning. He was then sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL), joining Tampa’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. His first stint for the squad saw him post 23 points (11 goals and 12 assists) in 75 games. That was good for 12th in scoring. The main contributors on offense that year were Carter Verhaeghe (82 points in 76 games), Alex Barre-Boulet (68 points in 74 games), and Cory Conacher (64 points in 70 games).
The Crunch made the playoffs in 2019, but they were swept in four games and eliminated. Katchouk’s postseason action saw him go pointless.
The following season saw Katchouk improve his regular-season point production. He may have only skated in 60 contests, but he accrued 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points. This was good for sixth on the club only behind Barre-Boulet, Ross Colton, Gemel Smith, Conacher, and Raddysh. The remaining games of the regular season and the entire 2020 Calder Cup playoffs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020-21 was Katchouk’s last in the AHL so far. He only suited up for 29 matchups. He put up 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in that span. That led all Crunch players in points. He was one of the most dangerous talents for Syracuse, along with Raddysh and Otto Somppi.
Katchouk’s 2021-22 NHL Experience
Katchouk debuted in the NHL for the Lightning this season after being ranked one of the top prospects for the team. He played his first game on Oct. 16 against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. In that game, he did not register a point. However, he finished the matchup with one hit and a little over six minutes of ice time. It would not be until his fifth game against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 13 in Tampa when he would earn his first NHL point, which was an assist on a Victor Hedman goal that gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead (Point would later tally the overtime winner for a final score of 3-2).
One of Katchouk’s biggest highlights in 2021-22 occurred at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Dec. 5. It was an overall fantastic showing for the Bolts as they dismantled the Flyers 7-1. Fellow Lightning teammates Ryan McDonagh, Corey Perry, and Raddysh netted the first three goals for the club. Then, a few minutes after Raddysh got his tally, Katchouk produced his first NHL goal to increase the lead against the Flyers to 4-0 at the time. The two assists came from Colton and Hedman. It was a milestone that capped off to an extent all of the hard work and effort put in that got him to the NHL.
Overall, Katchouk has done alright in his first season in the league. He is still getting his feet wet with the Lightning and has more development to go, but he has earned this opportunity to continue his growth. He has some of the best skill around him both on and off the ice for mentorship, and time will tell on what improvement he makes in the course of not only the rest of 2021-22 but for many seasons to come.
I have been a hockey fan for most of my life, and have played the game myself for more than six years. I graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2018, with a bachelor’s in Broadcasting & Mass Communication. Previous positions held include being a Sports Analyst for Oswego’s student-run TV station, WTOP-10; News/Sports Intern for WIVB-TV Channel 4; and Sports Beat Writer Intern for Pro Player Insiders.