Bolt Prospect of the Week

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for the week ending October 26 is … Kristers Gudlevskis, G, Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL.

Kristers Gudlevskis isn’t exactly a household name. He had his 15 minutes of fame with the Latvian Olympic team two years ago, but since that time he’s quietly faded from the limelight.

“Goo-la-VEE-skees,” as Chicago play-by-play announcer Pat Foley called him, made his return to the NHL this week and all he did was shut out the defending champs in their own barn for 60 minutes.

It’s hard to ask for much more than that from your “No. 3 goaltender,” but the Lightning did. Going into overtime tied 0-0, the Lightning needed Gudlevskis to hold the Hawks at bay for just a few more minutes. It didn’t happen as Jonathan Toews scored 17 seconds into overtime, but no one is putting this one on Gudlevskis.

Recalled from the Syracuse Crunch the day before, Gudlevskis stopped 31 shots for the overtime loss, earning a hometown media-awarded third star for his efforts. If the game was in Tampa, Gudlevskis is probably first star, but we do know he’s our Bolt Prospect of the Week.

Gudlevskis came into the season needing to prove to Lightning management that he can offer more than the occasional spectacular performance, and show in style and production that he’s capable of being consistently good.

The 6-3 former 2013 fifth round pick was excellent in his two starts for Syracuse this year – both wins – showing the poise and simple approach that indicate he may have turned the corner in his development from a minor league pro to an NHL caliber goaltender.

Gudlevskis is possibly as athletic as any goaltender in the system, but the Lightning like their big goalies to use their size and positioning first, then athleticism only when needed. At times last year Gudlevskis looked like he couldn’t stay still in his crease, but this year his movement has been much more economical.

With Ben Bishop battling a bit of inconsistency to start he year and Andrei Vasilevskiy coming off an extended trip to injured reserve, the Lightning need a capable option waiting in the wings. Gudlevskis has the size, athleticism, and now potentially the professional approach to be that player.

When he’s “on,” Gudlevskis looks like a future NHL goaltender capable of multi-week winning streaks. The more trust he gains from the organization, the quicker he’ll be in the NHL for more than fill-in duty.
Injuries will always be a part of NHL hockey, and if another one happens above him on the goaltender depth chart, Goo-la-VEE-skees ... er … Gudlevskis will be ready.

BP Rank: 13

Honorable Mention: Anthony DeAngelo, D, Syracuse-AHL; Nikita Gusev, W, St. Petersburg-KHL

Previous 2015-2016 Prospect of the Week winners:

October 19: Ryan Zuhlsdorf, D, (Sioux City, USHL, USA)
October 12: Dennis Yan, W, (Shawinigan, QMJHL, Canada)
October 6: Mitchell Stephens, W, (Saginaw, OHL, Canada)
September 29: Matt Peca, C, (Tampa Bay, NHL, USA)