The Wright Stuff: Tampa Bay Lightning Rookie Ascends to the Top Line

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIOctober 22, 2009

For 19-year-old James Wright, it's a fantasy world.

After being drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft from the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, the Saskatoon native figured he would be toiling in juniors and the minors for quite some time.

He wasn't a scoring force like Steven Stamkos or a large bruiser like Victor Hedman. He was just a kid who played with a tremendous work ethic and tried to max out on every shift.

After being drafted, Wright returned to junior and played well for the Giants, scoring 47 points in 71 games in '08. Still, the Lightning figured the young player would need a lot more seasoning before being able to compete on an NHL level.

During training camp, Wright shocked the team with his rapid development. While he hadn't developed a scoring touch, Wright proved he had the mettle to forecheck with ferocity, going into the boards and muck out the puck for his linemates.

He did the dirty work with the tenacity of a 10-year vet.

He impressed Lightning coach Rick Tocchet so much, the team decided to sign the youngster to an entry-level contract and he made the opening night roster.

Wright hasn't disappointed, showing the same work ethic just as he did during camp and the preseason.

On Thursday, Wright's ride gets a little wilder.

While it's more of an experiment while trying to get Vincent Lecavalier going, Wright will find himself on the top line with the Lightning's superstar captain and the team's point leader, Martin St. Louis.

Wright's job is simple: go into the corners, forecheck, and get the puck to the guys who can put it behind the goalie.

The shake up on the top two lines is an effort to snap the Bolts out of a two-game scoring slump and to get Lecavalier to light the lamp. Vincent is mired in one of his confounding slumps. He's now gone 14 games without scoring a goal, marking the second-longest stretch of his career.

For the first time this season, he'll be paired with the Lightning's leading point producer in St. Louis. Throughout Lecavalier's career, St. Louis and he have had an uncanny chemistry that always seems to get both of them going.

With the addition of St. Louis for playmaking and Wright to do the dirty work, it's expected that Lecavalier should snap out of least that's the hope.

For Wright, it's a dream come true.

"They're unbelievable hockey players," Wright said about his new linemates, "Just to be wearing the same jerseys as them out there is pretty special. To be on their same line is awesome."

With Wright's entry-level contract, Tampa Bay has nine games to decide to keep him or send him back to junior. Tonight will be game number eight.

Considering his rapid rise to the top line, it may be a good bet the youngster will be here for game 10.