Tokarski: Is He Closer to The NHL Than Previously Thought?

Norfolk coach Darren Rumble said he was going with the goalie who showed more consistency and wins. With Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius both splitting time at the net, Tokarski has emerged lately as the go-to guy.

As Pete reported, Tokarski allowed one goal on 26 shots Friday against Binghamton, and shutout Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wednesday. He’s currently tied for third among AHL rookies, and is ranked ninth among the league with 10 wins.

With that said, is Tokarski closer to the NHL than previously thought especially if the rumors of Mike Smith being shopped is factual? Currently, there is no comment about this from the Lightning, as an e-mail to the club was unanswered.

Please share your thoughts Lightning experts!

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Certainly an interesting

Certainly an interesting question, and he's a guy that we're excited about. I'm not sure at all how much the team wants to push him, and we (thankfully) aren't having the goalie injuries on the big club that we had last year so no call-ups yet. My guess is he'll get a shot next year at the absolute earliest.

Hmmm....

A good question, but I really don't think they're in any rush whatsoever to get him in Tampa. I think he could see a cup of coffee at the end of the year if he keeps up his good play and Tampa is out of it. I'm almost certain of that.

For Tokarski to get to the NHL otherwise, one of Smith or Nitty would have to be injured or traded. Smith has a contract attached to him and his play of late isn't helping his trade value. The rumors about Smith and Philly were likely just Lawton gauging how bad Philly was in need. I'm not convinced TB even wants to trade Smith. They certainly can't put all their eggs in his basket, however. Nitty, on the other hand, is unrestricted at year's end, and if TB is out of it at the deadline by a fair margin, he could be moved rather than lose him for nothing in July. It's obvious they trust him more than Smith right now though.

Future plans also play into it - don't forget Karri Ramo coming back from Russia next year. He'll likely be prominently in the GT picture next season, and that could leave Tokarski back in Norfolk for another year or half a year. And that wouldn't be the worst thing for him, either.

A wildcard in all this is Vasily Koshechkin. If they can ever get him to come over, it'd have to be - at minimum - for a chance at an NHL spot (he's not coming over to play in Norfolk). There's a lot of competition out there, but with Ramo's situation, Smith's bad play, and Nitty's free agency on the horizon, there is a window for the Tik to crawl through.

If... HUGE if ... there is an injury to Smith or Nitty, and Tokarski is called up over Helenius (expected at this point) and excels... it could be one of those situations where the kid grabs the job and runs with it because he had the opportunity. However, that's a bit of a storybook longshot for him.

The secondary point of this story is Helenius. Here's a former first rounder who should be the NF No.1 right now, and if he doesn't pull it together again, could be fighting with Janus when Erie's season is over just to keep his No.2 spot in NF. Then next year, he's in a three or four way battle for the Ads spot. His window is closing potentially.

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