North American Juniors
WGGB-TV out of Springfield, MA is reporting that Lightning University of Massachusettes-Amherst prospect defenseman John Wessbecker has been named to the HEAST All-Academic Team for the fourth consecutive year, earning him the Distinguish Scholar Award. Wessbecker, 22, completed his senior season at UMass-Amherst with 1 goal and 4 assists in 35 games as a stay-at-home blueliner. The Lighting have until August 15 to sign Wessbecker to an entry-level contract or he becomes a free agent.
In just a few short hours, the two year run of goaltender Torrie Jung and defenseman Michael Ward as Tampa Bay Lightning prospects could end. As 2007 draftees out of Canadian juniors, both players are facing a June 1 deadline to be signed to entry level contracts by the Lightning or be returned to the 2009 NHL entry draft later this month in Montreal. The Lighting have already signed fellow 2007 draftees Dana Tyrell and Mitch Fadden, along with 2008 draftee Dustin Tokarski to three-year rookie contracts. Jung, who had a spectacular comeback season for the Edmonton Oil Kings, has seemingly played well enough to earn a contract, but faces considerable depth in the Lightning system behind Mike Smith, Karri Ramo, Riku Helenius, and the highly touted Tokarski. Ward, while showing a more pedestrian development and is considered somewhat of a longshot to earn a contract, would seemingly benefit from a general lack of blueline depth in the Lightning system.
Defenseman John Wessbecker, a 2007 NCAA draftee out of the University of Massachusettes-Amherst, faces an August 15 deadline as a graduating senior to sign an entry level contract or be released as an unrestricted free agent.
According to posters right here on the BoltProspects Message Boards (namely Donnie D), Lightning GM Brian Lawton confirmed tonight at a Q&A session with fans that Lightning forward prospect Mitch Fadden has been signed to an entry level contract and that an official announcement would follow in a day or so. June 1 is the deadline for Fadden and fellow CHL prospects Michael Ward and Torrie Jung to be signed or return to the NHL draft. There was no word from Lawton on if Ward and Jung were also to be signed. It is also unclear whether or not Rimouski forward Luca Cunti's rights expire on June 1st along with Ward and Jung's.
PEI Rocket 2 @ Moncton Wildcats 3 (SO)
D Mark Barberio, MON: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Season totals: 15 GP, 4-11-15, +9, 8 PIM
Moncton is first overall in the league at 15-0-2-0, setting a record earning points in the first 17 games of the season. The 1972-73 Quebec Remparts held the previous league record for best start to a season by earning points in the first 16 games.
Kingston Frontenacs 3 @ Brampton Battalion 4
W Kyle DeCoste, BRA: 0-0-0, -1, 4 PIM (interference, hooking)
Season totals: DeCoste: 12 GP, 3-2-5, -4, 17 PIM
Of Note: Both Dana Tyrell and Dustin Tokarski were named to Team WHL for the upcoming ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. They are the only two Lightning prospects named to the WHL, OHL, or QMJHL teams as Mark Barberio was passed over for the Q's squad.
Sioux Falls Stampede 1 @ Fargo Force 2
D Luke Witkowski, FAR: 1-0-1,+1, 19 PIM (interference, checking from behind, fighting, 10 min misconduct), 4 SOG
Season totals: 5 GP, 1-1-2, +2, 26 PIM
Witkowskiâ€™s first goal of the year was the game winner for Fargo in their home debut.
Lightning defensive prospect and 2008 6th round pick Luke Witkowski is reportedly out with an injury and will miss the inaugral season opener of Fargo Force Friday night when they travel to play the Omaha Lancers. The Force is coached by long time UND head coach Dean Blais. The Force begin the USHL season with an eight game road trip, with their home opener on October 30 against the Sioux Falls Stampede.
Witkowski is credited with with first fighting major in Force team history when he dropped the gloves with Blake Thompson of Sioux Falls in Fargo's first exhibition game.
For Mitch Fadden, September will be the month that decides where he spends the next year. As the Lethbridge training camp begins, Tampa's 2007 4th round pick is still without a pro contract from the Lightning. After attending the Bolt's Prospect Camp in Victoria, BC last month, the Lightning still want to see more of Fadden before making a decision on where he spends the 2008-09 season.
In talking with the Lethbridge Herald, the WHL's sixth leading scorer was upbeat about the start of the Hurricane's camp, â€œItâ€™s business as usual, everyone is excited to get back on the ice and weâ€™re ready to start the season.â€
The Fargo Force have announced they have selected Tampa's 2008 6th round pick Luke Witkowski to join the roster of the USHL's newest team for the 2008-09 season. The 6'2", 200 lbs. defenseman has signed a letter of intent with Western Michigan University of the CCHA having deferred enrollment until the 2009-10 season. Witkowski became a free agent in May after the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL ceased operations for the 2008-09 season after just two years.
Witkowski, a big blueliner known for his skating agility and speed, will be coached in Fargo by former University of North Dakota head coach Dean Blais who led the Fighting Sioux to two NCAA national championships over the course of a decade at the helm. Blais, known for his up-tempo offensive style, seems to be a good fit for Witkowski's offensive potential. Blais also coached Bolt prospect Matt Smaby and recent Lightning signee Brandon Bochenski during his tenure at UND.