Prospect of the Week: December 10, 2012

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

This week’s winner said good-bye to his club team with a dramatic exit.

The Prospect of the Week for December 10 is … Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL – Canada)

A lot is expected of Russia this month at the upcoming World Junior Championships. The city of Ufa, Russia, is hosting the tournament, and the Russians will not settle for anything less than a gold medal.

With the NHL mired in a lockout, a lot of attention will be on the tournament from North America, too, especially in hockey-rabid Canada.

It’s a big deal.

Nikita Kucherov is a big deal for the Russian squad. This will be his second WJC tournament as he won a silver with the Russians last year in Alberta, Canada, finishing with two goals and seven points in seven games. He is expected to be an offensive leader for the home side.

Kucherov left the province of Quebec for Russia this past weekend, but not before leaving his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club, Rouyn-Noranda, wanting more from the 2011 Lightning second rounder.

Kucherov had a hat trick in his final game with the Huskies and also added two assists for his first 5-point game. For the week, he had four goals and two assists in two games.

It’s safe to say he’s ready for Russia.

Kucherov, who will return to Quebec in January, is our No. 12-ranked prospect in the Lightning top-25 prospect rankings. He projects as an elite scoring winger at the NHL level if he can learn to adapt to a more physical and responsible game in North America. The Lightning signed Kucherov prior to the 2012-2013 season.

For the year, Kucherov has 22 points (nine goals) in 13 games split between the Quebec Remparts and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He requested and was granted a trade out of Quebec earlier this season when he was the odd-man out in a unique import player situation with the Remparts. Now Kucherov has a regular lineup spot with the Huskies and he’s making the most of it.

Honorable Mention: Tanner Richard, C/W, Guelph (OHL – Canada). Like Kucherov, Richard left his junior club on a high note, notching four assists in his last game with the Storm – an 8-0 win over Erie. He had one goal and five assists in three games last week. He will play for Switzerland at the WJCs. Other Lightning prospects in the tournament include Andrei Vasilevskiy, Artem Sergeev, and Nikita Nesterov, all of Russia.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

December 3, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
November 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 20, Richard Panik, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 12, Alex Hutchings, W, Florida, ECHL-USA
November 5, Nikita Kucherov, W, Quebec, QMJHL-Canada
October 30, Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough, OHL-Canada
October 23, Dustin Tokarski, G, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 15, Cory Conacher, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 9, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
October 2, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
September 25, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia