Prospect of the Week: February 19, 2013

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 19 is … Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL – Canada)

Nikita Kucherov of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies is our Prospect of the Week for the fourth time this season, but this may have been his most impressive week of the year.

Kucherov, a 2011 second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had 12 points in three games last week, including two five-point games. He has three five-point games this season.

On Wednesday, the Russian winger had a goal and four assists in a loss to Victoriaville. After a one goal, one assist game against Drummondville on Friday, he had another five-point night with two goals and three assists in a pivotal division match-up against fellow Lightning prospect Cedric Paquette and Blainville-Boisbriand.

His efforts landed him the QMJHL’s Most Outstanding Player/First Star of the week.

Kucherov has 44 points (16 goals) in 22 games this season for an astounding two points-per-game average. Jonathan Drouin of Halifax, who may go first overall in this summer’s draft, is the only other QMJHLer at a two points-per-game average.

Kucherov is working on a 12-game point streak, which started two games after he had an eight game point streak to start the season – his first in North America. Those two games in between the streaks are the only two games this year when the forward failed to record a point. He has 30 points in his latest streak.

He projects as a top-6 scoring winger at the NHL level with all-star potential. Kucherov is already under contract with the Lightning, and could join the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch this year when Rouyn-Noranda’s season is over. At the least, he will be in Lightning camp next fall and likely with the Crunch to start the 2013-2014 season.

Kucherov, who is on the verge of being an elite prospect, must first get used to the professional game and add strength to his 5-11 frame. He has the skill, mind-set, and character to succeed, but he must round out his all-around game if he is to be trusted at the NHL level. Perhaps he can join Steven Stamkos and Brett Connolly in Gary Roberts’ gym next summer.

Honorable Mention: Riku Helenius, the AHL Goaltender of the Week, is too old (24) to be considered a prospect by this site, otherwise this would have definitely been a tie. Helenius had two shutouts and one goal against in three games last week for AHL Syracuse. Also, congratulations to Richard Panik, who made his NHL debut with Tampa Bay last week.

(QMJHL photo)

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

February 12, Alex Killorn, C/W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
February 5, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 30, Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
January 23, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 15, Artem Sergeev, D, Val-d’Or, QMJHL-Canada
World Juniors break
December 17, Alex Killorn, C/W, Syracuse, AHL-Canada
December 10, Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
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