BRANDON, Fla. - Injury-ridden last season, Lightning forward Mitchell Stephens has been more than ready to get back onto the ice. This training camp, he feels healthy and ready to make a run at a spot on Tampa Bay's team.
"For me going into my third-year pro, you want to try and close the gap on hopefully cracking the roster," he said.
The Lightning's first pick in 2015 played just 32 games for Syracuse last year and has yet to play to his full potential.
"It was important to me to get myself healthy and work into the right direction," Stephens said.
After injuries derailed part of his seasons over the last few years, Stephens decided to switch up his strength and conditioning routine. He even worked out with Lightning captain, Steven Stamkos.
"I got a chance to work out with him in Toronto," explained Stamkos. "Great kid. When someone goes out of their way to try to find a way to improve, by maybe changing the way they train in the summer, little things like that -- it shows they want to get better, that they want to be here and he's put in his time."
The 22-year-old is battling with several others for a spot.
"I thought he's looked really good in camp," said Stamkos. "His speed, his tenacity, his shot, those are the things that stick out. I'm looking forward to seeing him play in a couple of games."
Some offseason moves by the Bolts could open the door for Stephens this year. He knows it won't come easy, but he has a plan.
"To try and day-in and day-out, work my hardest and show the coaching staff and management what I can bring to the team."
The Lightning's first preseason game is Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Amalie Arena. They will host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m.