Tampa Bay Lightning: Ross Colton has a night that dreams are made of

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ross Colton (79). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ross Colton (79). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It was quite the night for Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Ross Colton on Wednesday.

Making his NHL debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena, Ross Colton carved out a night that he and his family won’t soon forget and he did it in impressive fashion.

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Colton, the 118th overall pick by the Lightning in the Fourth Round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, was informed earlier in the day that he would get the chance to lace up the skates for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions after impressing Head Coach Jon Cooper and the rest of the coaching staff.

It was a huge moment for the 24-year-old center but one he was ready for given what quickly unfolded. In what was just his second-ever shift in the National Hockey League, Ross Colton experienced a moment he will never, ever forget.

At 6:43 in the first period, defenseman Victor Hedman cut down the right side against the boards and circled behind the net before putting the puck on a plate at the top of the crease and Colton was there to take full advantage and record his first career NHL goal in what was only his second shift.

Ross Colton (79)
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ross Colton (79. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Ross Colton enjoys dream NHL debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning

It was a perfect illustration of Colton’s high Hockey IQ, too, given that he watched Hedman hit full stride before having awareness to get to the front of the net and just have his stick ready so that Hedman had some options to play with, which is what exactly happened.

Not bad for the rookie’s first shot of the game, either.

Colton wasn’t necessarily on the Tampa Bay roster to score goals on Wednesday night, but he did what any good NHL player does by getting to the net and having his stick in the right place at the right time, while displaying some of the awareness that will ensure he sticks in the NHL if he keeps playing well.

To make matters even better for Colton, his first career NHL goal also stood as the game-winner, becoming just the second Tampa Bay Lightning player ever to score a game-winning goal in his NHL debut behind Nikita Kucherov, while he also became just the ninth player in franchise history to score in his Lightning debut, joining Anthony Cirelli, Nikita Kucherov, Cory Conacher, Mike Angelidis, Ryan Craig, Jimmie Olvestad, Paul Mira and Alexander Selivanov.

Some impressive company and just an overall impressive night’s work by Ross Colton.

Colton would finish the game with a plus / minus rating of +1 in 7:52 of total ice time as the Lightning shutout the Carolina Hurricanes to improve to 12-4-1 on the year, but it was his first career NHL goal with his first shot in the big leagues that grabbed all the attention and will go down in the history books.

It was quite the moment for the 24-year-old who has had to wait for his chance, impressing for the University of Vermont with 50 points (28 G, 22 A) in 69 games, while he recorded 42 points (11 G, 31 A) in 62 games for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL last year in addition to starting this season with one goal and two assists for three points in three games for Syracuse.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are an absolute juggernaut with depth up and down the lineup but, having made quite the impression in his National Hockey League debut, there is a chance that Ross Colton could hang around with this team and perhaps become a staple in their bottom-six as this team aims to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in 2020-21. But, whatever happens, the rookie will always have his stellar NHL debut to look back on.