Jake Dotchin rewarded for half-season in NHL with contract extension

Author: Bill Doucet, Cambridge Times
Date: Jul 13, 2017

Despite the fact the Tampa Bay Lightning was bitten pretty hard by the injury bug this past season, defenceman Jake Dotchin figured his call-up to the National Hockey League from the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch would be like any other minor leaguer — one and done.

But the 23-year-old Cambridge native proved his worth and played 35 games with the Lightning before they missed the post-season, one-point back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot. Dotchin was rewarded for his play when he was given a two-year, one-way contract extension worth an average of $812,500 per season.

Dotchin found out the news when driving home after a week at the cottage.

“It was definitely an exciting year. It will be one to remember,” he said.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into my first call-up there in January. I thought it would be like most every guy in the American League at the time that was going up and being sent back down. I just went up there and kept things simple and played my game, and it worked out for me.”

Dotchin shouldn’t be surprised his number came up in Tampa when someone needed to be promoted, as he used last summer to work on his skating and explosive power with Canadian Olympic skater Barbara Underhill and Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx.

He credited both for helping get to the NHL after two seasons in the minors.

“This was obviously a big year for me and I had a lot of help down in the American League at the beginning of the year to get me ready for that opportunity I got,” he said.

“I can’t thank the coaching staff in Syracuse enough for the opportunities and the learning curve. Through all that stuff they stuck with me, showed they trusted me and that went a long way in the confidence of my play.”

Signing a one-way contract doesn’t guarantee that Dotchin won’t be sent back to the minors, but it does show that the plan is to keep him with the Lightning should he continue to perform the way the team expects.

“I hope so. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve on. I have to go into camp and earn my spot. I’m not going to earn that unless I bring my A game, play hard and do what I can do out there, and do what got me to this point.”

Dotchin also noted some of his success was due to his defensive partner in Tampa, Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman. Getting matched up in the blue-line with the 26-year-old all-star helped his growth through the season.

Dotchin ended up second in team plus/minus at plus-10, and was fourth on the Lightning in average ice time among defenceman at 18:25 per game, and had 11 assists.

“Heddy was a great guy to me and taught me a bunch. He kind of took me under his wing and almost acted like a dad to me up there. It was great to learn from. He was a big part of helping me succeed as well,” he said.

“I came up and I needed to prove myself. I just came to the rink every day and tried to play my best hockey every day, and it worked out for me.”

While Dotchin did everything right in the NHL, the thing he’ll likely be remembered for most during the season was being a recipient of a spear below the belt by Boston Bruins Brad Marchand. The spear earned Marchand a two-game suspension and had Dotchin reaching for the medicine cabinet.

“Ice and Advil,” he said with a laugh.

After not making the playoffs in Tampa, Dotchin was sent down at the end of the season to play with Syracuse during their post-season run. The Crunch ended up losing four games to two in the Calder Cup finals against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You know, we had a heck of a team down there. It was a tight-knit group and we had fun together. There wasn’t a day that went by on our run that we didn’t enjoy coming to the rink and playing with each other. I think that helped us in the long run, how tight we were. Unfortunately, we just came up short.”

It was a good way to leave his minor league career behind, as Dotchin can’t wait to get back to Tampa and slip on number 59.

Funny enough, that odd hockey number has stayed with him through development and training camps in Tampa, even though he wears number 4 with the Crunch. When he learned he was staying with the Lightning for the remainder of the season, they offered him a chance to switch numbers but he declined.

“It got me to where I am, so I’m sticking with it.”

He’s hoping that will hold true with Tampa Bay.

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