Tom Pyatt experienced a breakthrough last season, earning an NHL roster spot for an entire season while playing 61 games with the Montreal Canadiens.
He hopes to do the same in his first year with the Lightning.
Pyatt, a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 2005, spent two seasons with Montreal. Having played for Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher in the Canadiens' farm system should help his cause with the Lightning before final cuts are made.
"I was happy when I signed with the Lightning because I was familiar with the coaching staff and how they want the players to play,'' said Pyatt, who was back in Montreal for Thursday's preseason game against the Canadiens. "And if you are going to go to a new team, if you can be familiar with something it's going to make the whole process a little easier.''
Pyatt played for Boucher and assistant coaches Dan LaCroix and Martin Raymond during the 2009-10 season, appearing in 41 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's top minor-league affiliate. Pyatt scored 13 goals and had 35 points that season under Boucher, helping the 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward earn his first shot at the NHL level as he appeared in 40 games with the Canadiens. Pyatt also played the entire postseason with Montreal in 2010, appearing in 18 games and picking up a pair of goals as the team reached the Eastern Conference final.
Not retained by Montreal this summer, Pyatt was happy to sign with Tampa Bay on a one-year, two-way contract. Pyatt brings strong qualities that suit the Lightning's style of play, Boucher said.
"Speed and reliability, that's two main things for him,'' Boucher said. "He's an extremely reliable guy on the ice defensively, very quick to do things, follows the system to a T and he is relentless.''
In three preseason games before Thursday, Pyatt had a goal and was plus-2. After showing he's reliable on defense, Pyatt wants to become more of a complete player.
"I don't want to spend my whole career just being a defensive forward, a safe player," he said. "It's taking me some time, but I know that I can be an offensive player. It's going to be an experience getting that confidence going.''
In the one season since Boucher coached Pyatt in Hamilton, the Lightning coach said he can see improvements in Pyatt's game, and the game has slowed down for him.
"He's got more maturity in his game, and it's not that it was erratic before, but he would precipitate things,'' Boucher said. "Now, he does everything quick without precipitating. He can still do things fast, physically and technically, and think the game fast, but now he doesn't hurry to the point where he is going to miss the play and stuff. So, he is certainly somebody that we have to look at.''
Pyatt is battling for one of the final forward spots with Dana Tyrell, Brett Connolly, Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola. With decisions having to be made by Tuesday, and only Saturday's preseason finale in Quebec City against the Canadiens left to evaluate, there is little time to make his case to be on the roster for opening night Oct. 7 in Carolina.
"You just have to go out there and work hard and play the way you can, do everything you can on the ice,'' he said.