Name: Libor Hajek
Weight: 196 lbs.
Birthdate: 04 FEB 98
Club: Saskatoon (WHL)
Saskatoon (WHL), 69 GP, 3-23-26, 76 PIM
"He’s a bigger body, a very solid two-way player ... Libor Hajek was a 'safer bet' to be able to adapt both offensively and defensively to NHL than DeAngelo ... You watch Libor Hajek play on a really weak Saskatoon team and he just plays as hard as he can every shift all night long and his coach, who has just left the team to take an assistant position in Buffalo, couldn't say enough good things about him through the course of the year. On a weak team, he showed up and competed hard against the best players in the league every night when he could have folded his tent." - Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray
Name: Oleg Sosunov
Weight: 243 lbs.
Birthdate: 13 APR 98
Club: Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl (MHL B)
Loko Yaroslavl (MHL), 3 GP, 0-0-0, 0 PIM
Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl (MHL B), 39 GP, 4-8-12, 66 PIM; Playoffs: 12 GP, 0-2-2, 10 PIM
"He’s a big fella out of Russia. Halfway through the season Kari Kettunen, our Finnish scout, he’s got some people that he knows in Russia and he got a phone call from one of the guys, saying ‘I have a guy here that I think somebody should come in and take a look at that I think is a little under the radar.’ So, Kari made a special trip Russia – secret agent 007 Kettunen -- went into Russia – Yaroslavl – took a look at him and came out and was very complimentary. Came back and we sent Anton Routa – another scout – in a separate trip to go take a look, and Anton confirmed Kari’s excitement that this is a big guy who skates really well and has some skill and is very raw. Both his parents were, I believe, Olympic athletes, and so he’s got a natural athletic background and he’s very coordinated for a big man. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to come to Development Camp; he’s in training camp with the Yaroslavl men’s team trying to get a spot within their organization, and with the short notice to try to get a Russian visa would have been difficult as well, so unfortunately people won’t see Oleg, but he’s a big man and we’ll see what happens going forward there." -- Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray
Name: Otto Somppi
Weight: 183 lbs.
Birthdate: 12 JAN 98
Club: Halifax (QMJHL)
Halifax (QMJHL), 59 GP, 13-33-46, 25 PIM
"Otto Somppi came in from Finland and played on the Finnish Ivan Hlinka team and at the end of the year played with the Finnish U-18 team that won the championship. Otto’s played most of the season with a banged-up shoulder, so he had a shoulder brace on and he played on a very weak Halifax team. Once they traded Timo Meier they really had nobody to play with him so Otto persevered, worked hard through the season, battled through the shoulder situation, then went with Finland and played on the first line with [Jesse] Puljujarvi and [Janne] Kuokkanen. He played part of it at center and part of it at wing and was on the first line on the championship team with Finland. We have high hopes for Otto and part of the reason he didn’t get selected was the shoulder situation and the team that he was on, so that helps us – good news for us and it’ll make him a better person and player going forward." -- Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray
Name: Ryan Lohin
Weight: 190 lbs.
Birthdate: 26 JUN 96
Club: UMass-Lowell (HEAST)
Madison (USHL), 48 GP, 16-23-39, 50 PIM
Waterloo (USHL), 14 GP, 7-11-18, 4 PIM; Playoffs: 9 GP, 1-4-5, 16 PIM
"Ryan Lohin is very similar to Ross Colton. He’s a 96-born, both are 96-born guys that have gone through the draft a couple of times. Both came on this year to have real strong seasons in the USHL. Both are going off to college, he’s going to Lowell, and are going to be – from what we understand – big parts of both their college teams. Again, a 2-way guy with offensive skill. Not real big, 6-foot tall, 190 pounds, good puck skills, some offensive ability if you look at his numbers in the USHL he was over a point a game and these are the kind of guys that if you don’t take these guys as 19-year-olds as they are late-bloomers, then you’re chasing them for the next three years as free agents in college hockey, so both guys impressed us enough that we wanted to draft them." -- Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray
Name: Brett Howden
Weight: 192 lbs.
Birthdate: 29 MAR 98
Club: Moose Jaw (WHL)
Moose Jaw (WHL), 68 GP, 24-40-64, -7, 61 PIM; Playoffs: 10 GP, 4-11-15, 4 PIM
Consensus is that he projects to be a smart, dependable, two-way player that is safe bet to make the NHL and play with some jam and in all game situations. Work ethic and dedication to improvement is off the charts, and heralded as a great teammate with commitment to winning.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Cedric Paquette to a two-year, one-way NHL contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Paquette, 22, skated in 56 games with the Lightning last season, recording six goals and 11 points to go along with 51 penalty minutes. His 51 penalty minutes ranked fourth on the Bolts during the regular season. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound forward was one of five Lightning players to notch a shorthanded tally last season. Paquette also appeared in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2016, posting one assist and 24 penalty minutes. He ranked third on the Bolts during the postseason for penalty minutes.
The Gaspe, Quebec, native has played in 122 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, over the past three seasons, registering 18 goals and 31 points to go along with 102 penalty minutes. Paquette recorded his first and lone career hat trick against the Detroit Red Wings on January 29, 2015 at Amalie Arena.
Paquette was originally drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 101st overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward J.T. Brown to a two-year, one-way NHL contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Brown, 25, skated in 78 games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 season, notching eight goals and 22 points to go along with 59 penalty minutes. He ranked tied for third on the Bolts with a plus-16 rating. Brown also set career bests for games played, goals, points, plus/minus and penalty minutes this past season. The 5’10, 175-pound forward played in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2016, notching two assists and two penalty minutes.
The Burnsville, Minnesota, native has appeared in 198 career NHL games, all with the Lightning over four seasons, registering 15 goals and 51 points to go along with 95 penalty minutes. He has also played in 37 playoff games with the Lightning, recording a goal and six points.
Brown was originally signed by the Lightning as a free agent on March 28, 2012.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Luke Witkowski to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Witkowski, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, appeared in four games with the Lightning in 2015-16. He also made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, skating in two games during the second round against the New York Islanders. Witkowski also played in 70 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, recording three goals and 14 points. He ranked third on the team for games played and led all blue-liners for plus/minus with a plus-2 rating.
A native of Holland, Michigan, Witkowski has played in 20 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, during the previous two seasons, registering 19 penalty minutes. He has also amassed 199 career AHL games, all with Syracuse, with seven goals, 34 points and 465 penalty minutes. Witkowski has skated in three career Calder Cup Playoff games, all during the 2015 playoffs, and recorded an assist.
Witkowski was drafted in the sixth round, 160th overall, of the 2008 NHL Draft.
Here’s what’s going to happen Friday: The Lightning will take a center with their first choice in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and immediately 10,000 Lightning fans will take to social media to declare this newest Bolt prospect as the immediate replacement for 91, and this draft pick proves he’s gone.
Well, partially wrong.
The 2015-2016 season provided a mixed bag of results for the prospect pipeline of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. A glass-half-full view would point out the organization weathered one of the most extreme stress tests to a club's depth imaginable. Entering the playoffs without its top goal scorer and second-best defenseman and eventually losing its No. 1 goaltender to injury for an extended period of time in the postseason, the Lightning still managed to advance to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals partly on the performance of some of its top young players.
A glass-half-empty view, however, would point to the disappointing performance of the team's AHL affiliate, which missed the postseason leading to the dismissal of Head Coach Rob Zettler and the hiring of new Head Coach Benoit Groulx entering the 2016-2017 campaign. That's not to say there weren't developmental successes to point to on the Syracuse Crunch roster. But, the smashing success the club had with their affiliate under Jon Cooper had given way to a far more modest, underwhelming new normal that was ultimately not acceptable to the brain trust of Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman and Crunch GM Julien BriseBois.