Prospect of the Week: 12-15-14

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 December 15, 2014 is … Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).

Who are we to argue with the American Hockey League?

The league named Lightning goaltender prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy the CCM/AHL Player of the Week on Monday before we even had a chance to vote on our Prospect of the Week. The early bird gets the proverbial worm, so we’ll just go ahead and agree with the AHL on this one.

Not that we would’ve disagreed.

The Lightning’s second first round pick (19th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft allowed one goal on 56 shots in his two wins last week, good for a 0.50 goals-against average and a .982 save percentage.

On Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy beat Springfield on the road, stopping all 26 shots he faced in a 2-0 victory, breaking the Falcons’ franchise-record 11-game win streak. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves on Friday in 4-1 win over Hershey in front of Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman. It was the sixth time in Vasy’s last eight starts he allowed no more than one goal.

Vasilevskiy has a 8-3-3 record in 14 appearances with Syracuse this season, to go along with a 2.34 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage, and two shutouts. The 20-year-old rookie from Tyumen, Russia, spent last season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL and helped Russia to medals at the 2012 (silver), 2013 (bronze) and 2014 (bronze) World Junior Championships as well as gold at the 2014 World Championships.

In recognition of his CCM/AHL achievement, Vasilevskiy will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Crunch home game. It’s worth slightly less than the street cred our Prospect of the Week award carries, but whatever.

Vasilevskiy struggled early this year adjusting to the north-south North American style of hockey, especially finding pucks through traffic. Syracuse Goaltending Coach David Alexander has helped Vasy quickly adjust to the AHL and both the player and club are reaping the benefits.

Vasy projects as a No. 1NHL goaltender capable of all-star nods and post-season awards. Red Line Report compared him to Carey Price in his draft year. The Russian has size, athleticism, and a never-give-up competitive nature about him. He stops the shots he’s supposed to stop, and many he’s not. On top of that, he’s a winner. Vasilevskiy could be in the NHL later this year if there’s a long-term injury in Tampa, and with Evegeni Nabokov’s contract ending after this season, his name is in the hat for a backup role with the Lightning next year. No. 1 on Vasilevskiy’s development list remains playing time, however, so he’ll probably spend most of next season between the NHL and AHL getting starts. Ben Bishop’s contract ends after two more seasons, and Vasilevskiy will be poised to take over the No. 1 spot at that time if needed.

In the meantime, be patient and enjoy the show.

NHL Comparable: Carey Price, Montreal

BP Rank: 2

Honorable Mention: Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL); Nikita Gusev, W, Khanty-Mansiysk (KHL)

(Jeremy Houghtaling photo)

2014-2015 Prospect of the Week winners:

December 8: Brayden Point, C, (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL, Canada).
December 3: Philippe Paradis, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 24: Adam Erne, W, (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, Canada).
November 18: Yanni Gourde, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 12: Cedric Paquette, C/W, (Tampa Bay Lighting, NHL, USA).
November 5: Joel Vermin, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 28: Adam Erne, W, (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, Canada).
October 21: Jonathan Drouin, W, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
October 15: Vlad Namestnikov, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).