Prospect of the Week: February 5, 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 5 is … Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA)

The Cory Conacher Show made its debut on opening night for the Lightning this season as the rookie posted a goal and an assist in his debut. He was named our Prospect of the Week for that performance.

Now, after eight games, the show is still a hit and he’s our Prospect of the Week again.

Last week Conacher had five points in three games to take over the NHL’s rookie scoring race at five goals and seven assists for 12 points. In truth, his five points came in two games as he went scoreless in Sunday’s loss to the New York Rangers.

Conacher started his week with a goal and a helper on Tuesday against the Panthers. He followed that up two nights later with two deflection goals and an assist as the Bolts thrashed the Jets, 8-3. Conacher was named first star on Friday and third star on Tuesday.

Conacher’s starring role this season caught the eye of Canadian hockey icon Don Cherry, who highlighted the Canisius College product on Saturday’s CBC Coaches Corner. Cherry called Conacher “unbelievable” and told the kids in his vast viewing audience to look to Conacher and the Lightning’s Martin St. Louis as models of inspiration for overcoming size stereotypes in hockey.

The only thing the undrafted phenom has done “wrong” is his timing. His five points last week were in February games, which solidified the NHL’s Rookie of the Month award for January for the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko.

On Monday, the 5-foot-8 Conacher was ranked No. 1 by ESPN’s Grant Sonier, a former Lightning staffer, in his updated list of top NHL rookies – one spot above Tarasenko. Conacher, Tarasenko, Edmonton’s Justin Schultz, and Boston’s Dougie Hamilton could go down to the wire in the race for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s top rookie.

The last Lightning rookie to flirt with winning the Calder Trophy was Brad Richards in 2001. Richards ultimately came in second to San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. No Tampa Bay Player has ever won the award.

Conacher, who could be the first, projects to be a point-producing top-6 forward – in other words, exactly how he’s playing. His production is usually as certain as... well, death and taxes.

Count on The Cory Conacher Show continuing in Tampa for many years.

(S. Audette photo)

Honorable Mention: Matt Peca from Quinnipiac University who had a goal and an assist in two games for the ECAC leaders. The second-ranked Bobcats have not lost in 19 straight games.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

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