Prospect of the Week: December 3, 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 made people remove their chapeaus and toss them onto a sheet of frozen water to delay a sporting match.

The Prospect of the Week for December 3 is … Cedric Paquette, center, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL – Canada)

Paquette started the year off on the wrong foot when he would frequently retaliate to opposing players’ efforts to get under his skin. The final straw for the coaching staff was when the 6-1, 200-pound center took a bad penalty away from the play in the closing minutes of a tie game, resulting in an Armada loss. The team suspended Paquette for one game and removed his alternate captain’s letter from his jersey.

Since that game, Paquette has been a different player – a more composed player. He recently told the press he is putting the team first and not taking selfish penalties, specifically retaliatory ones.

His renewed focus is also resulting in more points – especially assists.

Last year Paquette was a scorer, denting the twine 31 times in 63 games. This year, he’s just below the 30-goal pace with 13 in 27 games, but his assist totals have skyrocketed. He has 22 assists in 27 games. He had 17 all of last season. His plus-13 rating is well above his career high of plus-1, also.

In 12 games since his suspension, Paquette has 17 points and he’s currently working on a 4-game scoring streak in which he has eight points.

Last week, Paquette had two assists and was plus-2 in a win against Baie-Comeau, then followed that up with a hat trick on Sunday versus Drummondville – hence the hat throwing.

Paquette is one point behind 2013 Draft-eligible forward Chris Clapperton for the team lead in points.

Next year Paquette will likely be playing professional hockey as a 20-year-old, though he is eligible to return to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as an overage player should the Lightning not sign him.

The Lightning’s 2012 fourth round pick projects as a gritty third or fourth line player at the NHL level who can chip in offensively and win important battles in the corners. The key to reaching his potential and eventually making the Lightning is to put his team above himself, and he’s already learned an important lesson to that end.

Honorable Mention: Nikita Nesterov, D, Chelyabinsk (KHL – Russia). The young defensive prospect played more than 21 minutes in both games in which he played last week in arguably the best active league in the world.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

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