Articles that are feature stories.

New Syracuse Forward Erne Focuses on Present, Future 

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Adam Erne knows his days with the Syracuse Crunch are numbered.

With six games left in the Crunch’s season, the 18-year-old is soaking in his first professional experience. Next year, if the 2013 second-round pick doesn’t make the Tampa Bay Lightning, he returns to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, who are hosting the 2015 Memorial Cup tournament.

“I guess it’s more preparation for camp this year in Tampa,” said Erne, who signed an entry level contract with the Lightning and an amateur tryout with the Crunch last week. “I know a lot of these guys are going to be there, and it’s going to be a lot of the same skill set. Obviously, there’s a jump to the NHL, but this is as close as it gets. It’s good preparation for camp.”

Bolt Prospect of the Week: April 9, 2014

We continue our Bolt 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 Bolt Prospect of the Week for April 9, 2014 is … Jonathan Marchessault, W, Syracuse Crunch (AHL - USA).

Jonathan Marchessault just experienced a year’s worth of miracles in the span of two days.

First, the scoring winger acquired from the Columbus organization in March scored twice – shorthanded – in a ridiculously improbable come-from-behind Crunch win over Utica on Saturday. Syracuse was down by three goals with less than 90 seconds on the clock when Vladdy Namestnikov scored to make the game somewhat interesting. Namestnikov’s goal was scored with Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis pulled for an extra attacker during four-on-four play.

Ikonen Gets Head Start with Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After his first practice with the Syracuse Crunch Tuesday, Henri Ikonen spent some extra time on the ice working with fellow rookies.

Ikonen, who signed an entry level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday and will finish the season on an amateur tryout with Syracuse, liked the brisk, energetic pace at practice. The 2013 sixth-round draft pick admits he may not be the most skilled player, but prides himself on the effort he puts in.

“I’m a good skater, so I bring some speed,” the 5-11, 184-pound winger said. “I can battle in the corners, win battles and take the puck to the net, and hopefully score some goals from there.”

Marchessault Looks to Prove Himself With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Jonathan Marchessault still believes he has to prove himself every day.

The Crunch forward already has a contract for next season, is a two-time American Hockey League All-Star, and after coming to the Tampa Bay organization in a deadline trade, leads Syracuse with 48 points. The Crunch may be a longshot to make the playoffs, but Marchessault has no plans to mail in the rest of the season.

“As a professional, you always have to be ready for any game,” the 23-year-old said. “Every game is important, so you’ve always got to be able to show what you have and what you've got.”

Vermin Begins Adjustment to North American Game

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The transition to the North American style of hockey has begun for Joel Vermin.

After a nine-hour trip from Switzerland on Sunday, the forward joined the Syracuse Crunch for practice this week. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s seventh-round selection in the 2013 draft will spend the next few weeks getting acclimated to the American Hockey League.

“Everything is new for me -- small ice rink, new team -- but I’m getting used to it,” said Vermin, who is expected to make his Crunch debut this weekend. “I’m feeling pretty good.”

Vermin signed a three-year deal with Tampa Bay in September, but was assigned to Bern of the Swiss A-League instead of coming over to North America. He will likely play in the Lightning organization in America next season.

Bolt Prospect of the Week: March 31, 2014

We continue our Bolt 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 Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 24, 2014 is … Adam Wilcox, G, Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA - USA).

Adam Wilcox’s trophy mantle is filling up. It’s a good thing the Bolt Prospect of the Week award doesn’t come with a big, honkin’ trophy.

BP Mailbag: 3-27-14

The mailbag is back with your questions about Lightning Land, present and future.

To have a question answered, use the hashtag, #bpmailbag on Twitter, or respond on our messageboard.

@BoltProspects if you're Yzerman, what type of contracts are you aiming for with Johnson, Panik, and Palat? Panik shorter than the rest?

One-year deals are usually reserved for players who either want to prove something or need to prove something. Panik definitely fits the bill here, though Cooper and Co. love his potential. I could definitely see a 1-2 year restricted free agent deal for him and 2-3 year deals for the others. Johnson is 23 and Palat 22, with 27 being the unrestricted free agent age. Tampa Bay likely wants to have their contracts end a year before they’re eligible for UFA years to protect their rights. Both are definite core players who are part of the future success of the club.

Bolt Prospect of the Week: March 24, 2014

We continue our Bolt 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 Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 24, 2014 is … Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL – Russia).

If playoff experience is instrumental in a prospect’s development, Andrey Vasilevskiy is being subject to a symphony.

Ufa’s teenage goaltender has been in net for all of the club’s playoff games so far, including a pressure-packed Game 7 against Novgorod last Tuesday. Down 2-0 in the series, he turned in a triple-overtime gem in Game 3, and allowed just two goals in each of Games 4 and 5 before a Game 6 loss.

His team was outplayed in Game 7, being outshot 35-21, but Vasilevskiy turned aside all but one shot en route to a 2-1 win. Ufa had a 2-0 lead in the game and survived with Vasilevskiy under siege in the third period.

Smith Excited About Fresh Start with Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Dalton Smith doesn’t pull any punches as to what’s expected.

In limited minutes over his first five games with the Syracuse Crunch, the 6-2, 218-pound power forward has a goal and a fighting major, but while Smith has shown he can chip in on the scoresheet, he’s not focused on point production.

“I’m an energy guy, someone who’s going to stick up for his teammates," the 21-year-old said. "If we need a boost, hopefully I can make a play, whether it’s a big hit or a fight. Getting points is a bonus. They don’t expect me to put up big numbers. Just the way I play around the net, sometimes I get some lucky rebounds.”

BP Mailbag: 3-19-14

The BP Mailbag is back with more questions from Lightning Nation...

How good can Adam Wilcox be? He doesn't get talked about much but his numbers are amazing. @BoltProspects #BPMailbag

University of Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox (23-4-6, 1.91 GAA, .934 sv%, 3 SO) was just named the Big 10 Conference Player of the Year and remains a candidate for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player and the Mike Richter award as top goaltender. He was a sixth round pick of the Lightning in 2011.

Wilcox has good size, great athleticism, and a superb mental approach to the game. His poise and focus are among his biggest strengths. How good can he be? Goaltenders are the hardest to judge – just look at the number of failed top picks and successful late picks. However, Wilcox appears to have the mental and physical attributes to make it to the NHL and be a solid player.

He’ll be a junior next year at Minnesota if he stays in school, and speculation is he will stay in school as both Syracuse goalie spots appear to be taken by Andrey Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis, respectively. While there is an opening at Goaltender No. 5, I don’t know that Wilcox would leave his throne in the Gophers net for the ECHL. My guess is he comes out after his junior year and takes one of the Syracuse spots. Then it’s at least two years before he’s flirting with NHL time. It’s a long process, but he has the ability to be a solid NHL net minder.

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