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 September 24, 2013 is … Andrey Vasilevskiy (Salavat Yulaev, KHL, Russia).
If Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night worried about Tampa Bay's goaltending, there’s probably a framed photo of Andrey Vasilevskiy on his nightstand calming him down.
The Lightning’s goaltender of the future is spending his last year in Russia this season before making the jump to North American hockey. The 2012 first rounder has been adamant about his desire to come to North America to further his professional hockey career. His KHL contract ends after this year.
In the meantime, the 19-year-old is excelling in arguably the second best league in the world. This past week, Vasilevskiy went 2-0 while posting a save percentage of .965 and goals against average of 1.00 to earn KHL Rookie of the Week honors.
For the season, the 6-3, 200-plus pound ‘tender is 3-0-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .941 save percentage. His save percentage is fourth in the league and GAA fifth. Vasilevskiy has never had a save percentage under .930 in a season in which he’s played more than 10 games.
Lightning fans got a glimpse of Vasilevskiy this past summer when he attended the Bolts’ Prospect Development Camp. It won’t be too long before he’s in a Lightning uniform for good. A conservative guess is two years – this year in the KHL then at least one year with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse. This will help Vasilevskiy get acclimated to the smaller ice surfaces of North America (not to mention Syracuse’s uniquely sized sheet), as well as the American culture. This would also fit in to Yzerman’s philosophy of patiently developing prospects through significant ice time.
Vasilevskiy’s size and skill combined with his athleticism, demeanor, and competitive nature make him one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey. The Lightning’s head scout, Al Murray, called him the best goaltending prospect he’s seen in his career.
Our second ranked prospect (to Jonathan Drouin ), Vasilevskiy projects as high as a franchise goaltender, but at the least a formidable starting NHL goalie.
When that happens, expect sound sleeping for everyone in Lightningland.
2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners: