Prospect of the Week: February 17, 2014

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.

The Prospect of the Week for February 17, 2014 is … Brian Hart, W, Harvard Crimson (NCAA – USA).

For the third consecutive week a collegiate player is our Prospect of the Week. This week the honor goes to Harvard’s Brian Hart, a second round pick (53rd overall) of the Lightning in 2012.

Hart, a 6-3 212-pound forward out of Phillips-Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, had two goals and an assist this week to raise his season point total to 12 (four goals) in 25 games. The Maine native had a goal in Monday’s 6-2 Beanpot Consolation Game win over Boston University and followed that up with an assist in a 1-0 upset win over Clarkson on Friday. He finished his weekend with a goal in a 2-2 tie against St. Lawrence on Saturday.

Hart is budding power forward known for his heavy shot and somewhat underrated puck skills. He had 32 goals and 68 points in just 29 games during his last year at Phillips-Exeter. Tampa Bay recognized his potential and took a flier on him in the second round with their second of two picks (Dylan Blujus was taken earlier in the round) in 2012.

Playing the college route is allowing Hart to spend four years developing on and off the ice, especially physically. The hope is Hart, now a sophomore, graduates and is ready for pro hockey as a seasoned forward who can provide size, skill, and physicality on any line. Alex Killorn followed a similar path.

Hart has upped his penalty minutes this year and has played a more physical game with better ice time than he did as a freshman. He has been on Harvard’s top two lines most of the season, especially the last two months.

As a longterm project, it’s difficult to project where Hart ends up. In his draft year, RedLine said he projects as a third liner in the mold of David Jones, who is now with the Calgary Flames. TSN’s Craig Button compared Hart to Bill Guerin, provided Hart improves his skating and speed. Both recognized his heavy shot as being his top ingredient.

Hart’s size and smarts likely make him a strong candidate to at least land on the bottom lines in Tampa, but his ceiling is definitely higher. It’s a waiting game, and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a PhD when it comes to patience with prospects.

We rank Hart No. 14 among Lightning prospects.

Honorable Mention: Slater Koekkoek, D (Windsor, OHL); Kristers Gudlevskis, G (Team Latvia)

2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners:

February 10: Matt Peca, C, (Quinnipiac Bobcats, NCAA, USA).
February 3: Adam Wilcox, G, (Minnesota Golden Gophers, NCAA, USA).
January 27: Dylan Blujus, D, (North Bay Battalion, OHL, Canada).
January 20: Mark Barberio, D, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
January 13: Kristers Gudlevskis, G, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
January 6: Ondrej Palat, LW, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 17: Tyler Johnson, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 10: Ondrej Palat, W, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 3: Cedric Paquette, C, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 26: Tyler Johnson, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
November 19: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 13: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 4: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 29: Kristers Gudlevskis, G, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 24: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 16: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 9: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 1: Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, (Salavat Yulaev, KHL, Russia).
September 24: Adam Erne, W, Tampa Bay (NHL) and Quebec (QMJHL)