Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed big Swedish forward Niklas Persson to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday. For the undrafted 31 year-old late bloomer, the signing marks the realization of a childhood dream to have a shot to play in the NHL.
Persson played last season for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik in the KHL, and three seasons for Linkoping before his KHL tour. During that four year span, the 6'02", 205 lbs forward, tallied 59 goals and 84 assists in 219 games. Persson won bronze medals with Team Sweden in both the 2009 and 2010 World Championships along with the Elitserian SM silver medal in 2007 and 2008 with Linkoping.
Persson told Aftonbladet, "I go over to take a place in the NHL. That is where I want to play, absolutely. I have written a two-way contract, and there is certainly a way out if I need it, but I have no other thoughts than to play in the NHL. At worst, I may play in the AHL and show that I'll have a chance. I will not leave home without an honest attempt."
"It's a childhood dream come true."
Russian website championat.ru is reporting a rumor sourced to Sport-Express that goaltender Vasily Koshechkin may possibly play next season for KHL club Mytischi. Koshechkin split last season between Togliatti and Magnitogorsk of the KHL and was reportedly an option to be signed by the Lightning this summer if ex-GM Brian Lawton had remained in Tampa Bay. Mytischi added Lightning prospect Denis Kazionov to its roster earlier this offseason and recently re-signed former Lightning draft pick Alexei Glukhov.
Hockey Expressen is reporting that the agent of Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius, Jay Grossman, has announced the Finnish born former first round pick will play for Sodertalje in the Swedish Elitserien again next season. Helenius joined Sodertalje late last season and backstopped the club to a first place finish in the Kval till Elitserien, the annual promotion/relegation tournament. The move may be a positive for Helenius' development, as he is expected to be Sodertalje's starter next year and the Lightning already have a glut of Norfolk-bound goaltenders with Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus in the fold. Having Helenius in Sodertalje allows the Lightning the luxury of having him develop with plenty of starts in a premiere European league. Helenius is entering the final year of his entry-level deal with the Lightning.
Finland won the final leg of the annual Euro Tour, the LG Games, on goal differential over the Czech Republic. Lightning prospects Vasily Koshechkin and Johan Harju participated for Russia and Sweden, respectively, as did current Lightning player Victor Hedman for the Swedes. In addition, ex-Lightning player Evgeni Artyukhin played for Russia while ex-Lightning prospect Marek Kvapil played for the Czech Republic. The tournament is a tune-up for the upcoming World Championships.
Finland 5 @ Russia 4 (SO)
Vasily Koshechkin, Russia, DNP
Potential 2010 first round pick Mikael Granlund scored the shootout winning goal in Finland's 5-4 victory over Russia. Former Lightning forward Evgeni Artyukhin had a goal in the match for the Russians, with one assist going to another former Lightning forward, Alex Svitov. Former Lightning defenseman Janne Niskala also had a power play assist in the match for the Finns.
Czech Republic 2 @ Sweden 1 (SO)
Johan Harju, Sweden, 0-0-0, 2 PIM
Jakub Klepis was the only shooter to convert in the shootout session, lifting the Czech Republic to a 2-1 win over Sweden. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had Sweden's only goal in the match.
Sweden 2 @ Russia 4
Vasily Koshechkin, Russia, Win, 34/36, 2.00 GAA, .944 sv%
Johan Harju, Sweden, 1-0-1, 0 PIM
Despite a goal from Lightning prospect Johan Harju, Sweden fell hard to Russia 4-2 in the second match of the LG Games. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman took a late minor for holding in the match.
Russia 2 @ Czech Republic 4
Vasily Koshechkin, Russia, DNP
Ex-Lightning prospect Marek Kvapil assisted on a second period goal by Petr Koukal in the Czech Republic's 4-2 win over Russia.
Sweden 3 @ Finland 2
Johan Harju, Sweden, 0-1-1, 0 PIM
Lightning prospect Johan Harju assisted on Niklas Persson's shorthanded game winning goal in Sweden's 3-2 win over archrival Finland.
Harju finished second among the Swedes in scoring with 1 goal and 2 points in 3 games with a +3 rating and 4 penalty minutes. Victor Hedman, for his part, had 1 goal in 3 games and a +2 rating with 2 penalty minutes. On Team Russia, Vasily Koshechkin was 1-0-0, with a 2.00 GAA and .944 sv% in his only appearance.
Ex-Lightning forward Evgeni Artyukhin had 1 goal in 3 games but was -2 with 4 penalty minutes. Former first-rounder Alex Svitov had 1 assist and was also -2 with 2 penalty minutes. Former Lightning defenseman Janne Niskala had a helper in 3 games and a +2 rating. Ex-Lightning prospect Marek Kvapil had a helper in 2 games and a +2 rating.
Among potential 2010 first round picks, Finland's Mikael Granlund had 1 goal and 2 points and was -1 in 3 games. Russia's Vladimir Tarasenko was scoreless and -1 in 3 games.