Prospect of the Week (3.21.12)

This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques, but a player-devoted YouTube channel could be in the works.

We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospect’s achievement on the ice.

This week’s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to … Richard Panik, RW, Norfolk Admirals (AHL).

Panik attack, y’all.

With all due respect to Dominique Wilkins, Richard Panik of the Norfolk Admirals may be stealing his “Human Highlight Film” nickname.

After a relatively slow start to the season when Panik, a professional rookie, had five points in his first 20 games and was reportedly in danger of being sent to the ECHL, the former second round pick of the Lightning (2009) has 32 points in his last 34 games. He has 11 points in his last eight games, helping the Admirals to an AHL record-tying 18 straight wins.
He makes up one third of one of the hottest lines in the AHL right now with fellow Bolt prospects Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Last week Panik had six points in three wins, including three goals. The Slovakia native was named a game star in all three wins and had perhaps the goal of the Admirals’ season when he scored on a breakaway by tucking the puck between his legs before beating Charlotte’s Justin Peters, who spent some time with the Carolina Hurricanes this season. He made his North America debut with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL a few years ago by scoring a between-the-legs goal in his first exhibition game.

Panik has great size and is as strong as an ox on his skates, but coming into the year battled effort and consistency questions. Despite built like a power forward (6'2", 215) he doesn't always play that role. Norfolk coach Jon Cooper told BoltProspects.com in training camp that they keys with Panik are to find out motivates him and in what situations he plays best, then play to his strengths. Veteran leadership was also key.

Cooper has obviously found the right buttons to press as Panik is turning into the elite prospect he was thought to be early in his draft year.

He will be a part of the competition for a spot or two on the Lightning roster next fall with several other young forwards, but most likely will start next year in the AHL. How he plays in the AHL playoffs will go a long way to determining how far up the ladder he can go before camp.

Until Panik makes his NHL debut, fans can enjoy Panik’s YouTube highlights, such as the goal he scored on Peters:

</embed>

For more Panik highlights, search “Richard Panik Goal” on YouTube until his own channel is inevitably created.

Currently Panik sits fifth on the Admirals in scoring with 18 goals and 37 points in 54 games.

Previous BP Prospects of the Week:
Tyler Johnson, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - March 13, 2012
Danick Gauthier, Saint John (QMJHL) - March 6, 2012
Matt Peca, Quinnipiac (NCAA) - February 29, 2012
Pat Nagle, Florida (ECHL) - February 21, 2012
Alex Hutchings, Florida (ECHL) - February 14, 2012
Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - February 6, 2012
Adam Wilcox, Tri-City (USHL) and Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - January 30, 2012
Nikita Kucherov, CSKA Jr. (Russia) - January 24, 2012
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - January 16, 2012
Brett Connolly, Canada (U20 WJC) - January 10, 2012
*Due to the Christmas break when few games below the NHL level were played, no POTW award was given.
Mark Barberio, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 19, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - December 12, 2011
Tyler Johnson, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 5, 2011
Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - November 28, 2011
Nikita Kucherov, Team Russia/CSKA Jr. (MHL) - November 21, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - November 14, 2011
Dustin Tokarski, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - November 6, 2011
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - October 30, 2011
Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac Bobcats - October 23, 2011
Radko Gudas, Norfolk Admirals - October 16, 2011
Carter Ashton, Norfolk Admirals - October 9, 2011
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning - October 2, 2011
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning - September 25, 2011