After a flurry of activity earlier this summer, the Lightning's offseason has finally slowed down. So, I think this is a good time to take stock of everything that has happened so far. There has never been a time in Lightning history where both the roster, the coaching staff, and front office of this franchise has changed so dramatically. The incredible multi-dimensional makeover of the Tampa Bay Lightning has rightfully generated a lot of interest in the upcoming season, and a lot of credit has to be given to OK Hockey on that account. It's not always easy to generate a significant buzz for a team that finished dead last in the NHL last season, and it's a credit to this group's salesmanship that the trade of two of four members of the ex "Fantastick Four" (Brad Richards and Dan Boyle) hasn't been accompanied with a sense of doom in the fan base.
That said, I think anyone with unbridled optimism for the Lightning this coming season needs to ratchet down expectations to a more reasonable level. The simple truth is that OK Hockey has made several risky moves and the outcome of those moves won't be known for months. What we should all be left with, I think, is what I would deem an "uneasy anticipation" for the coming season.
Lightning prospect followers can breathe a sigh of relief today as the Bolts' highest ranked European prospect, 22 year-old forward Johan Harju, received some positive news regarding the hamstring injury he suffered Monday in Lulea's first practice session for the upcoming season.
Lasse Lundgren, Lulea physiotherapist, indicated that damage is not uncommon for hockey players and expects the left winger to return to the ice in the next few days. The injury was a "rupture" to the hamstring and intends to get Harju running Wednesday or Thursday as part of the usual rehab of injuries such as this. Lundgren said there would be no rush for Harju and that he would be rested for a bit considering the importance of the upcoming season for Lulea.
Harju admitted that he first noticed the hamstring back in July when he was playing land hockey and missed a tackle.
A sixth round pick by the Lightning in the 2007 draft, Harju has scored 32 goals in 106 games over the past two seasons for Lulea in the SEL.
The Norfolk Admirals have announced the signing of Bracken Kearns and former Lightning 2003 draft pick Jay Rosehill to standard AHL player contracts. Kearns, a center, was re-signed after playing with the Admirals last year under a similar AHL contract. Rosehill, a defenseman turned left wing, also played for the Admirals last season as a Tampa prospect under a three-way NHL contract.
Norrbottens-Kuriren is reporting that Lightning prospect Johan Harju suffered a possible knee injury during an on-ice practice session with Lulea for the upcoming SEL season. Apparently, Harju went to make a turn and felt a snap in the back of his knee. The team is being cautious with the possible injury and Harju left the ice in order to get a medical examination of the knee by a doctor. No further information about the extent of the injury are known at this time.
(Thanks to BP staffer sotnos for the translation help!)
TBL.com sat down with the Lightning's Brian Lawton following this week's Prospect Camp to get a feel for which prospects not named Stamkos raised some eyebrows. Getting special props from Lawton were Andy Rogers and Chris Lawrence.
â€œChris Lawrence really surprised us, as did Andy Rogers. They are the perfect example of guys who just needed a fresh start and both responded very well. You can expect to see them in our main camp in Tampa and in exhibition games this year. We expect both of them to take a dramatic upswing in their careers.â€
Lawton also praised new defensive prospect Ty Wishart acquired in the trade with San Jose for Dan Boyle. â€œTyâ€™s been a terrific surprise â€“ heâ€™s got such good size and mobility with strong stick and puck skills. Heâ€™s a lot further along than we thought when we made the trade for him.â€
The Augusta Lynx announced Thursday the hiring of John Marks as the team's new head coach. The 60 year old Marks is the all-time ECHL wins leader as a head coach with a 485-412-63-32 record in 990 career-regular season games over 13 seasons with Charlotte, Greenville and Pensacola.
â€œ[We] are ecstatic to be able to bring in a coach of John Marksâ€™ caliber. He certainly knows what it takes to win at this level,â€ co-owner Robert Burch said. â€œWe feel heâ€™s going to be a perfect fit with our organization and our new affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning.â€
Marks was set to continue coaching in Pensacola this fall until the team folded earlier this off-season. He contacted the Lynx about the job on the same day former coach Bob Ferguson announced he was leaving. Ferguson, who was the coach of the Lynx for the past three seasons, left to take an assistant GM position with the American Hockey League's Iowa Chops.
The Victoria Times is reporting that undrafted junior hockey graduate and Lightning Prospect camp invitee Brady Leavold has been signed by the Norfolk Admirals to a two-way AHL-ECHL contract. There has been no official announcement from the Admirals on the signing, but new Norfolk GM Mike Butters has been busy this week signing depth players Pete Zingoni, Mike McKenna, and Justin Fletcher to AHL contracts.
After going undrafted, Leavold, a Port Coquitlam, BC native, returned to the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) for a 5th junior season and exploded for a point-per-game campaign in both the regular season and the playoffs. Playing on Kelowna's top line as highly touted Dallas prospect Jamie Benn's right winger, Leavold put up 27-42-69 in 67 games and 6-2-8 in 7 playoff games. Leavold also racked up 138 PIMs. After the Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs, the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL signed Leavold to ECHL contract, finishing this season with 3 regular season ECHL games and 2 playoffs games for the Salmon Kings. The Salmon Kings retained Leavold's ECHL rights, so that if Norfolk reassigned Leavold to the ECHL, Victoria would get Leavold instead of Norfolk's ECHL affiliate in Augusta.
Dustin Tokarski shutout Team White in 20 minutes of action in the third and final game of the Red-White intrasquad scrimmage series at Hockey Canada's 2009 World Junior Championships Developmental Camp. Team Red won the game 4-2 and claimed bragging rights winning the series 2-1. Tokarski was a Lightning 5th round pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in June after winning Memorial Cup MVP honors and leading his Spokane Chiefs to the CHL title. Lightning 2007 2nd round pick Dana Tyrell was scoreless for Team White in the final game, finishing 0-1-1 and 2 PIMs in the 3 game series.
Tokarski led all goaltenders with just 2 goals allowed in 3 games and 90 minutes played. Tokarski's Team Red teammate Jake Allen (STL) allowed 5 goals, while Team White's Tyson Sexsmith (SAN) and Chet Pickard (NAS) allowed 4 goals and 7 goals, respectively.
The roster for Team Canada's 2009 U20 World Junior Championships roster is scheduled to be released in December 2008.
Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters was busy with the pen again today continuing to add roster depth by signing former Lightning overage defensive prospect Justin Fletcher to a standard AHL contract. Butters had signed center Pete Zingoni and goaltender Mike McKenna to standard AHL contracts on Monday. Fletcher, originally undrafted out of St. Cloud State in Minnesota, signed an ATO with the Springfield Falcons and eventually earned a one year NHL contract from then Lightning GM Jay Feaster in May 2007.