For more than two seasons, the legend of Radko Gudas grew within the Lightning organization nearly as quickly as his thick, lumberjack-like beard.

On Tuesday, Gudas made his NHL debut as the Lightning visited the Florida Panthers.

Drafted in the third round in 2010, the 6-foot, 205-pound defenseman steadily became one of the team’s top prospects. Known for his heavy, open-ice hits in the American Hockey League, Gudas became a complete player while appearing in 206 games with Tampa Bay’s minor league farm team.

He was recalled from Syracuse on Monday.

“He’s a kid that came in two years ago and he had a major upside as far as his physicality … and will hit extremely hard at moments teams don’t expect,’’ Bolts coach Guy Boucher said. “He’s a warrior, but what is great is, over the past two years his game is a little calmer in the sense that he chooses those moments a lot better than he used to.

“And we really, really liked him at (training) camp, and (he) was a lot closer to making the team than we thought. Now, he is just playing extremely steady with the physicality he has always had. And he deserves to be here.’’

Gudas leads the AHL with a plus-32 rating while picking up 207 penalty minutes this season. He was home relaxing with his roommates Monday when he received a call on his cell phone from the 813 area code.

“I hadn’t had (Steve Yzerman’s) phone number, but I saw that it was somebody from Florida calling, so I had a little feeling but I wasn’t sure,’’ Gudas said. “But I was so excited.’’

Gudas called his father in Prague, Czech Republic, to share the news, but his parents were not able to arrange a flight to see his NHL debut. Instead, his parents are expected to be in attendance Thursday for his home debut.

Lightning LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie said opposing teams will learn to keep their head up when Gudas is on the ice.

“He’s got his own style, and his style is rare,’’ Labrie said. “He comes low and fast, and you better keep your head up when you come across the blue line because he’s coming.

“He’s hard to play against. … There are so many good things to say about that guy.’’