Ten questions for this year's Lightning prospect season...
On the heels of a national holiday, 32 prospects--most drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, others signed as free agents and a handful of invitees--gathered on the ice Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon to begin several days of on-ice and off-ice conditioning as well as instruction in organizational values and the culture of professional hockey for both returning and first-time participants.
"Let's call this what it is: summer hockey," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told assembled media. "Part of what [the players] get out of this camp is the chance to get to know myself, Rob Zettler, the staff. Getting to know expectations and being a pro."
"A lot of these kids are coming from juniors programs, college, all these different walks of life, but here at the Tampa Bay Lightning we've got a certain code of conduct," Cooper noted. "This is where it starts."
Having concluded fitness testing and physicals, players hit the ice and rounded out their day with an hour-long practice spent completing basic drills as well as a forty-five minute power skating session.
"The first day is always kind of a feel out day," Cooper said. "Some of these guys, I'm sure, have been skating and some haven't been."
Keeping in mind that the 3-on-3 tournament scheduled to begin Tuesday and wrap-up on Wednesday, the final day of camp, will provide better opportunities to gauge player abilities and hockey sense, here are some brief and selected observations:
The Lightning signed 2012 first-round pick Slater Koekkoek to a standard three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
"This is obviously something I have been working toward my whole life,” Koekkoek said in a Spitfires press release. “I am happy it's done. But now the real hard work begins.
"Obviously my first hope is to make the Tampa club out of camp [next year]. But knowing I have a great team and teammates to come back to in Windsor if that doesn't happen is awesome."
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 7 @ Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 5
W Nikita Kucherov, R-N: 2-3-5, +3, 0 PIM, 6 SOG, 0 Hits, *Third Star*
Season totals: 22 GP, 16-28-44, +11, 2 PIM
With R-N: 16 GP, 13-21-34, +12, 0 PIM
With Quebec: 6 GP, 3-7-10, -1, 2 PIM
C Cedric Paquette, BLB: 1-2-3, +2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 1 Hit
Season totals: 53 GP, 22-49-71, +24, 87 PIM
Kucherov (pictured) extended his point streak to 12 games with his second five-point night in his last three games. He has 12 points in those three games, which raised his season points-per-game average to two. Kucherov’s linemate, Swiss native Sven Andrighetto (2013), had four goals and two assists for first star honors. For the Armada, Lightning prospect Cedric Paquette had his first three-point night of February; he had four in January.
Val-d’Or Foreurs 5 @ Chicoutimi Sagueneens 7
D Artem Sergeev, VDO: Did not play
Season totals: 44 GP, 6-25-31, +19, 49 PIM
Sergeev missed Saturday’s game, likely the result of a match penalty he received on Friday against the Sags.
Ontario Hockey League
Mississauga Steelheads 0 @ Barrie Colts 3
D Jake Dotchin, BAR: 0-1-1, +1, 2 PIM
Season totals: 53 GP, 4-17-21, +2, 58 PIM
With Barrie: 15 GP, 2-5-7, +1, 19 PIM
With Owen Sound: 38 GP, 2-12-14, +1, 39 PIM
Dotchin extended his point streak to a career-high four games with an assist while helping the Colts shut out the visiting Steelheads, 3-0. Undrafted German overager Mathias Niederberger made 28 saves for the win.
Guelph Storm 4 @ Plymouth Whalers 7
C/W Tanner Richard, GUE: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 43 GP, 8-45-53, +15, 90 PIM
Rickard Rakell, just assigned to Plymouth from the Anaheim Ducks, had a goal and two assists and Matthew Mistele (2014) had a hat trick for the Whalers in their home win over Guelph. Rakell had no points in four games with Anaheim this season.
Note: Windsor’s Slater Koekkoek is out for the season with an injured shoulder.
Ontario Hockey League
Sudbury Wolves 1 @ Brampton Battalion 4
D Dylan Blujus, BRAM: 0-0-0, +2, 4 PIM
Season totals: 51 GP, 2-20-22, -4, 46 PIM
Brampton outscored the Wolves 3-1 in the third period to claim a 4-1 win. The Battalion pulled within one point of Sudbury for fourth in the Eastern Conference. After a slow start, Dylan Blujus is back near an even plus/minus rating.
Windsor Spitfires 3 @ Guelph Storm 1
C/W Tanner Richard, GUE: Did not play
Season totals: 38 GP, 8-44-52, +18, 82 PIM
D Slater Koekkoek, WIN: Did not play
Season totals: 40 GP, 6-23-29, -24, 28 PIM
With Windsor: 2 GP, 0-1-1, +2, 0 PIM
With Peterborough: 38 GP, 6-22-28, -26, 28 PIM
Tanner Richard missed the game with the flu. Windsor’s Slater Koekkoek is out for the season with an injured shoulder.