Koekkoek Injured in Preseason Game (Updated)
General Manager Steve Yzerman has led three entry drafts for the Tampa Bay Lightning and twice raised eyebrows when he chose an injury-risk player with a top-10 pick. The first was Brett Connolly (hips) in 2010, which has worked out okay so far. In June of this year, Yzerman selected promising defenseman Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes with the 10th overall pick despite the fact Koekkoek missed all but two months of the season with a severe shoulder injury. Koekkoek, who had his shoulder surgically repaired, passed all medical examinations before the draft.
The Petes' kicked off their preseason last night and Koekkoek – named captain earlier in the week – played his first competitive game since he was hurt on November 27, 2011. Koekkoek took a hit from Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner of Oshawa and later left the game. According to the Peterborough Examiner, Koekkoek was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. His coach, Mike Pelino, classified the injury as an “upper body injury,” which opens speculation that it could be the same shoulder.
“I don't want to jump to conclusions until I know more,” Pelino told the Examiner Thursday night. “Right now I don't know anymore. Right now, he’s being evaluated and that’s all we know.”
Koekkoek was reportedly in the penalty box serving a delay of game penalty in the second period when he left the box and went to the Petes’ locker room.
The Lightning view Koekkoek as a potential first pairing, 2-way defenseman at the NHL level. He is Bolt Prospects’ second-ranked prospect in the organization behind only Andrei Vasilevski.
UPDATE: Mike Davies of the Examiner reports Koekkoek suffered bruising and the early prognosis is he'll be out of action for "a couple weeks." Peterborough General Manager Dave Reid told the newspaper Koekkoek requested that further details about the injury not be released. The club continues to call it an "upper body injury."
Davies said Koekkoek's surgically repaired left shoulder banged against the boards when hit by Jenner.
“Considering it was his first game back from surgery and all he's gone through,” Reid told the Examiner, “no question when he leaves the game early you think 'Oh boy, it could be bad.' It was definitely the right thing for him to do to leave early and get it looked at by the proper doctors just to make sure. That's what we've done the last 12 to 14 hours.”
"It's not a serious thing, so I'm happy about that," Koekkoek told Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times. "Obviously, it's tough. I worked so hard to get it back. But this isn't affecting (the surgical repair) at all."
Davies reported that Yzerman called the Petes (Yzerman's junior club) to check up on his prized prospect.
"Sometimes you've got to get used to getting banged around and get that strength back," Yzerman later told Cristodero. "He'll be all right in the long run."
(Pictured: Koekkoek at the Lightning's post-draft prospect development camp. Eric DuBose photo)