Erik Erlendsson is reporting that the Norfolk Admirals head coach Darren Rumble said that former Lightning prospect forward Justin Keller will attend the 2009 Admirals training camp as a professional tryout. The 2004 8th round pick by Tampa was not tendered a qualifying offer this June by Bolt GM Brian Lawton after his three-year entry-level rookie contract expired. Keller was just one of two Lightning players under contract that was not invited to the 2008 training camp in Tampa. Keller subsequently started the 2008-09 season playing for the now defunct August Lynx (ECHL) but was recalled to Norfolk after just four games behind four goals and an assist. Keller went on to score career high 18 goals and 37 points in just 58 games for the Admirals.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have inked prospect forward Radek Smolenak to a one year contract pending the receipt of a document from the KHL indicating his freedom from any contractual obligations. The gritty Czech winger, dubbed with the nickname "Smoke", signed a contract with a KHL team for the 2009-10 season back in May after his three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning had expired. However, Smolenak was recently cut from his KHL team during its exhibition season reportedly due to the team's limited number of import player roster slots. Tampa had retained Smolenak's NHL rights in June by filing a qualifying offer to the player. It seemed a contract was imminent when Smolenak's name appeared on the Lightning's 2009 training camp roster on Wednesday.
Stay tuned for more details as this story develops.
Training camp is just around the corner for the Lightning, and in about a month they'll be dropping the puck on the 2009-2010 NHL season. But, for Lightning prospect followers the season starts Thursday, September 10, when Dimitri Kazionov and Kazan square off with Yaroslavl. It will be Bolt Prospects' fifth season of covering the team's prospects, and one of the most interesting in the past half decade. Here's a quick preview of the year ahead:
The Tampa Bay Lighting announced the roster for their 2009 training camp on Wednesday. Camp is scheduled to start Saturday, September 12.
The roster includes six of the seven 2009 draft picks including Victor Hedman, Carter Ashton, and Richard Panik. The roster also includes prospect forward Radek Smolenak, who had planned to play the 2009-10 season in the KHL but had been recently cut from that team. The Lightning had retained Smolenak's NHL rights, and it has been rumored that Tampa is still interested in getting the gritty winger under contract.
Finally, as reported earlier today by Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, the roster includes free agent tryout Brett McLean. The 31 year old veteran forward had his $1.7M salary bought out by the Florida Panthers on June 29th, and is looking to impress the Lighting enough to earn a contract.
This was Richard Panik's much talked-about second goal of the preseason, scored between the legs on a ricochet off the end-boards. Panik (#28 on right) had three goals and eight points in two exhibition games for Windsor before joining the Lightning for rookie camp in Brandon, Florida. Enjoy.
Buried in a blog post by Damian Crisdotero of the Times today is news that the Lightning are still considering signing goaltender Jaroslav Janus to a pro contract for this season if he shows in camp he is capable of pushing Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski in camp.
The Lightning have also hired Leigh Mendelson, ex of Spokane in the WHL, as the Norfolk Admirals' strength, conditioning, and video coach. Brian Lawton is also planning on revealing Norfolk's new assistant coach shortly. Former NHL defenseman Jim Johnson, who has been working with the team's prospects this summer, is said to be in the running. Johnson played 829 NHL games between Pittsburgh, Minnesota/Dallas, Washington, and Phoenix.
In recent CHL exhibition action:
Richard Panik (2009 2nd) had a goal and three assists in a 5-3 Windsor exhibition win over Plymouth Saturday afternoon. Panik has three goals and five assists in his first two North American games. And he's not even playing next to likely 2010 No.1 overall pick Taylor Hall yet. Panik couldn't be in a better situation. He's playing for a coach (Bob "The Boogie Man" Boughner) and GM (Warren Rychel) who were both hard-nosed, disciplined players and expect the same out of their Spitfire players. As the defending Memorial Cup and OHL champions, and expected 2010 champion for both, the Spits will be in Canada's spotlight and have targets on their backs all year. They'll get everyone's A-game defensively. This should help Panik speed his development for NHL play. Finally, he'll be surrounded by players such as Hall, Ryan Ellis, and Cam Fowler, which means he has a very high statistical ceiling. This will be fun to watch.
Goaltender Jaroslav Janus made his exhibition debut for Erie Saturday, stopping 31 shots in a 4-4 tie with Niagara. Janus can return to Erie this year as an overager, though there was speculation he'd go to Europe or be signed by the Lightning and placed in the Central League or assigned to an ECHL team. It's good to see him back with the Otters, even if it's just to get work before Tampa Bay's rookie camp this week.
The "other" 2009 Lightning first rounder, Carter Ashton, had an assist for Lethbridge in preseason action Friday.
Matias Sointu, who is making his North American debut with Ottawa this year, has one assist through two exhibition games for the 67's. Sointu missed most of last season with an injury in Finland.
The Q opens regular season play this week, so look for BoltProspects' Game Night summaries to appear shortly.